November 25, 2010

WELCOMING THE NEW PURITANS:

For GOP, a Star is Born (Ruben Navarrette, 11/24/10, RCP)

Besides cutting spending and battling the corruption for which New Mexico is famous, Martinez has also vowed to lead the charge to roll back a state policy of providing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. It's an unusual stand for a Mexican-American officeholder, and a controversial one.

For Martinez, it's a cut-and-dried issue of public safety. She is concerned that the licenses being given to illegal immigrants are identical to those given to U.S. citizens. In the post-9/11 world, that's living dangerously.

Still, Martinez is no right-wing ideologue. She recently came out against Arizona's immigration law, which all but requires local and state police to racially profile Latinos. As a prosecutor, Martinez is concerned that crimes might go unreported or witnesses might go underground if they fear local police officers.

"When there is a crime committed against someone who is in the country illegally," she said, "we have to respond the same way we would if the victim were a U.S. citizen."

Martinez is already stirring anxiety among Democrats. The fact that she appeals to different groups of voters -- earning 38 percent of the Latino vote in the governor's race, according to exit polls -- makes her a threat to the opposition. Just like one-time federal appellate court nominee Miguel Estrada and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, she'll be a target for the left because hers is an inspirational success story that might convince Latino voters to take a fresh look at the GOP.

Most Mexican-Americans won't be sold. But, if Republicans can clean up their language on immigration, Mexican nationals who have become naturalized citizens might warm up to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 25, 2010 8:17 AM
  
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