Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Why do politicians talk about the Hispanic vote in Florida and immigration policy?

Asked by JLeslie (47523 points ) January 30th, 2012

Sure there are lots of Hispanics in FL, but the majority are Cuban. I guess it sells well in other parts of the country. Cubans are legal the minute they touch our shores, it is nothing like Mexicans crossing the border. I doubt Cubans worry much about immigration policy in general, nor have the issue at the top of their list for who to vote for. They do care about relations with Cuba, and getting rid of Castro and communism.

I have a feeling a lot of Americans around the country do not realize Cubans still come in under asylum. But, believe me other Hispanics know, and it pisses them off.

Somehow the asylum issue never comes up in the national news regarding politics and political elections.

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19 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I assume that some people just assume they’re all the same, “since they look the same”.

wundayatta's avatar

Like most hot button issues, that sound-bite version does not reflect eh great complexity contained therein. Believe me, the politicians know, and they say different things to each different audience. They say what they need to say to get votes.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The hypocrisy of the Republican party in this matter is incredible.

When they campaign in Florida, the politicians are trying to show how moderate and welcoming they are to hispanics, because they are clearly trying to get a large hispanic vote for them in the primaries and in the general election. So it’s pandering to get votes.

But do you remember just 2–3 weeks ago, in Iowa and in New Hampshire, that the major Republican candidates were saying the opposite – how they are for strict and enforceable anti-immigration laws and how 12 million people should be sent back south of the borders? In those primaries, they were trying to appeal to the population that wants immigrants out.

So you have the same guy saying one thing in the north and the opposite in the South. Talking out of both sides of their collective mouths.

Why anyone would believe a candidate on anything is beyond me.

john65pennington's avatar

This is exactly why a law was passed for each person to have a form of identification, in order to vote. Hispanic groups number in the millions and that is enough votes to sway an election.

But, how can they vote, if they are not legal??

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso FYI, most of FL, especially southeast FL does not use the term “south” to describe FL.

The thing is, I don’t even think the pandering “talks” to Floridians. Cubans do not have immigration worries. I guess they might when Castro and his policies finally fall, but I am not sure people think that far ahead, even the Cubans. When I lived in FL I never heard a Cuban talk about immigration policy. I knew Argentinians and Venezuelans and Brazilians who had to deal with the messy process. My husband, who is Mexican, had to deal with all the paperwork, his sister pointed out how much harder it is for Mexicans than say her husband who was Italian. But, there are not very many Mexicans in southeast FL, I only knew one other person besides my husband’s family.and, forgot about the Haitians who are pouring in, who have horrific conditions in their country. They get rejected for legal immigration all the time.

@john65pennington Most are legal. I don’t know what percentage are citizens. I have mixed feelings about ID to vote. Pretty much I lean towards needing ID. They ID me where I vote in TN, but I don’t think they did in FL.

zenvelo's avatar

They do it because they can stand in front of a Latino crowd in Miami, gets lots of applause telling them we need to be “tough but fair” on immigration, and then claim they are supported by Latinos. It works even more in their favor when the rally is covered by Telemundo or Univision.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@JLeslie – last time I looked at my map of the US, Florida was south of Georgia. Floridians may not consider themselves in the south – but they are. Too bad if they don’t like the description.

By the way, that “we’re not in the South” syndrome stops a little south of Daytona Beach. (I.e. Gold Costs, WPB, Ft Lauderdale, Miami). The rest of the state north of there is clearly in the South, both geographically and mentally (and geo-politically).

marinelife's avatar

You are a little out of date. The Hispanic population of Florida is growing very rapidly (up to 18% in 2005). It is by no means all Cuban:

“Florida’s Hispanic population includes large communities of Cuban Americans in Miami (mainly from refugees fleeing the Castro regime) and Tampa, Puerto Ricans in Tampa and Orlando, and Central American and Mexican migrant workers in inland West-Central and South Florida, like the Lake Okeechobee area.”

Wikipedia

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso I agree north of Daytona, hell, north of Jupiter, is basically the “south”. Some exceptions around Orlando and Tampa. The speeches they are making in Miami-Dade, I think most southerners from AL, MS, or GA would feel like they are in a different country. It definitely is not a southern mentality.

@marinlife I actually don’t know the statistics, certainly more and more Hispanics from other countries are coming into FL. I wonder what percentage of the migrant workers you reference are citizens? I lived in southeast FL, so my interaction with Hispanics was mostly from Cuban, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Nicargua. You make a good point though, I bet Cubans is maybe only half of Hispanics in FL, I really don’t know. But, the Cubans are the big block of Republican voters among the Hispanics.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@JLeslie – believe me, I know the Florida mentality – I have family down there and have visited dozens of times.

On the other hand, because of the large New York (and northeastern) mentality, south Florida has some really good delicatessans that make some of the best corned beef sandwiches outside of NYC.

So S. FL is not all bad…

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso I lived in Southeast FL most of my adult life. I know the deal also down there. Mostly Boca, some time on South Beach, last stop I was living in Delray Beach. I’m a Jewish northeasterner now living in Memphis, TN, married to a Mexican and my Spanish is pretty good, Believe me I know south, I know NY, and I know Florida, and I know a good deli. Next time you are at TooJays get the mounds cake for dessert if you like coconut. Hands down the best cake ever! I loved and still south Florida, hope to get back there soon.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@JLeslie – I’ve had the killer chocolate cake at TooJays in Boca – I love chocolate, but it was a challenge for me. I took half of it home.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

The best answer I can come up with is that they talk about the Hispanic vote simply to hear themselves talk, because they certainly haven’t any idea of what they think their talking about. And neither does the media. That is most obvious of all.

The Hispanics in Florida are as varied as their needs and opinions. Each group, based on former nationality, work for their own pollitical interests without much cohesion or commonalities beyond their general Latino roots. But they are the first to point out the differen and often conflicting objectives of each group. To romance one group, can mean failure with the others.

For instance, there is a significant and growing Puerto Rican community all along the I-4 corridor who are divided on their main issue concerning whether or not Puerto Rico should get full statehood. Many are against more Mexican immigration for some reason and they don’t trust the Cubans. The PR faction is historically solidly Democrat on most issues except those that interfere with their Catholicism, such as the abortion argument.

Then there is a significant and growing Mexican population of new, legal immigrants, mostly in Florida’s north, west, central and south central agricultural regions and the resort areas along the coast. In other words, they are nearly everywhere. At this time, these people are mostly of lower and lower middle classes, solid Democrats and are, of course, for a more liberal immigration policy. They are a labor class who are so preoccupied by survival that it is doubtful, if they are politicized at, that they have political interests beyond those concerning their own needs. They work long, hard hours, are family-oriented, and devout in their religious beliefs.

Then you have a solidly middleclass, well educated, highly Americanized Cuban group who have been on Florida’s central west coast, centered in Tampa’s Ybor City, and south at Key West since the 1890s who identify with the Democratic Party on most issues. They are solidly for opening American travel to Cuba without restrictions and do not have the naked animosity toward Castro exibited by the Miami Cubans, they are leery of Cuban communism, but still identify strongly with their Cuban cultural roots. Overwhelmingly, this group wants the Cuban embargo to end and they want to get back to doing business with the old country through the old family connections.

Then there is the second wave of Cuban refugees, the ones that arrived in the Mariel Boat Lift of the early 1980s, known as Los Marielitos. These arrived as undereducated, indigents of a darker color and are looked down upon by the earlier, lighter skinned, better educated, and more affluent refugees of the first wave in the 1960s and 70s. They have melted into the American social strata and today have a small political voice. They are not well organized and not known to be politicized like the first wave.

And finally, you have a huge pain-in-the-ass hurricane in a teacup that, upon analysis, is nothing more than a family feud that has kept local, state and national politicians, policy makers, military, FBI, CIA, NSA, DEA and INS personnel, and many of the refugees themselves gainfully employed on American tax dollars for the past two and a half generations. It involves a small, localized population which is tiny in comparison to many of the other politicized Latino groups in the US, but much more powerful in Washington than most national PACs and are able to influence US foreign policy unimagined by most US citizens.

These are the people involved in the first wave of refugees from the 1959 Cuban revolution whose politics have been unvaryingly defined by their anti-Castroism more than any other issue to the extent that, because President Kennedy failed to prosecute the Bay of Pigs invasion to their satisfaction, have voted blindly for the Republican Party ever since. They were an affluent, ambitious crowd, members of the middle and upper-middle class of Cuba under Fulgencio Batista and they liked the way things were going, thank you very much, until those brutal peasants, led by one of their own, came howling out of the mountains and reduced Cuba to Communism.

This first wave of Cubans to Miami were from the beginning dominated politically by the Diaz-Balart family, the anti-Castro organization La Rosa Blanca and their enmity toward Fidel Castro. If the individual Miami Cuban’s personal politics, didn’t comply with the Diaz-Balart family’s personal hatred of Fidel Castro, if they didn’t vote the right way and for the right issues, if their anti-Castro resolved weakened slightly, if they surreptitiously slipped off to Mexico City for the 3pm plane to Havana merely to visit family, then they would have to deal with the terrorist and former Cuban Chief of the Secret Police, Rolando Masferer and his Los Tigres. This explains the unvarying loyalty to the Republican Party and the vast amounts of personal wealth the Miami Cuban Community poured into the party to ensure the continued American boycott of Cuba by a group representing 0.04% of the US population. To understand this level of passion, animosity, and political clout, one must know a little about the history of the Castros, the Diaz-Balarts, and pre-Castro Cuban politics.

From the 1920’s on, Rafael Diaz-Balart, Sr., was a very well-connected Cuban lawyer with a practice dedicated to one very special client: The United Fruit Company (UFC magically transformed into Chiquita Banana complete with a perky Carmen Miranda lookalike as a mascot for PR reasons after years of disastrous news reports of UFC’s involvement in right-wing military government overthrows, forced peasant removals and the destruction of private farms complete with political assassination and torture). The Diaz-Balart family home was in the Oriente province town of Banes, a United Fruit Company town, and there Rafael, Sr.’s progeny grew up alongside other future Cuban leaders such as future Cuban president and dictator, Fulgensio Batista and Rolando Masferer. Rafael, Sr., had a son, Rafael, Jr., who eventually went off to the University of Havana law school and became best friends with another law student, Fidel Castro. They attended liberal anti-government meetings together.

Fidel Castro grew up in an Oriente town near Banes. His father, the Castilian peasant Angel Castro, had come to Cuba as a soldier in the Imperial Spanish army which was sent to put down the peasant revolts of the late 19th century. After mustering out of the army, he stayed and went to work for United Fruit Company as a guajiro in the Oriente Province. He worked hard over the years, saved and lived simply, and began buying significant amounts of land from American Fruit so rapidly that the joke around United Fruit was that while the company execs slept at night, Angelo moved the fences. He eventually did very well for himself and by the time his bastard son, Fidel, was in his teens, the Castro family was very wealthy even by American standards. But being of peasant stock, the Castros were not entirely welcome among the country club set like the Diaz-Balarts.

At the University of Havana, the boisterous Fidel became quite popular, a classic BMOC, head of the debating team, first string center on the basketball team, and with his buddy, the more retiring Rafael Diaz-Balart, Jr.’s encouragement, Castro dated his sister, the beautiful society debutant, Mirta Diaz-Balart. After law school, friction between the two college friends developed when Castro chose the revolutionary way to reform while Rafael, Jr. chose to work within the system, becoming head of the youth party under Batista. And before Rafael could realize his mistake of facilitating his sister’s relationship with Castro, she married Castro. By the time Fidel and his comrades had unsuccessfully, attacked the Moncada Baracks, she was pregnant with the all-important first-born son, Fidelito, forever mixing the noble blood of Diaz-Balart with that of the peasant revolutionary Castro. For the bloody Moncada Barracks fiasco, Castro was imprisoned at the Isla de Pinos where he was tortured, his life being spared only by the reluctant influence of Mirta’s family. And so it was game on.

In the 1950s, Rafael Diaz-Balart, Sr. passed on, (it is said by some that he died of grief over his favorite daughter’s choice of a husband), Rafael, Jr. became Minister of the Interior under the brutal Batista regime (under which operated the secret police headed by Rafael Jr.’s childhood friend, Rolando Masferer and his elite paramilitary enforcers, Los Tigres), and Castro went on to succeed Batista as dictator of Cuba through bloody revolution.

Upon arrival in Miami beginning in 1959, the Diaz-Balarts found that the buying of political influence in America wasn’t much different from that of Cuba in what the American press had earlier and repeatedly referred to as Batista’s top-down corrupt Cuban society. All one had to do was pour money into the campaigns of certain US Congressmen and Senators, buy congressional seats for members of your family and friends, purchase enough national media time to plant the idea of imminent communist danger at America’s southern doorway into the empty heads of the American populace, and take full advantage of the legal bribery referred to in America as Lobbying. With money, you could get anything you want, even repeated assassination attempts on your brother-in-law.

Rafael, Jr. became an investment banker and with the likes of Roland Masferer working in the background, gained control of the Florida’s 21st congressional district‘s_21st_congressional_district even placing his older son, Lincoln, there between 1993 and 2011 to be succeeded by the younger son, Mario, in 2011. No other party even put up a candidate when filing closed on April 30, handing the seat to Mario Diaz-Balart. Indeed, since the 21st’s creation, the Republican candidate has run unopposed in all but two elections. Mario previously served Florida’s 25th congressional district from 2003 to 2011. The 25th is actually a slightly marginal district on paper. In contrast, the 21st is considered the most Republican district in the Miami area.

Other new generation products of the Diaz-Balart machine are Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Marco Rubio. The one thing all these elected representatives have in common is their rabid desire to maintain the Cuban embargo and the destruction of Fidel Castro, his political machine, and his family. Their careers depend on it.

But there has been a much darker force at work in Miami thanks to Masferer types and CIA funding. Since the arrival of the initial Cuban wave of refugees in 1959, reputations and businesses have been destroyed, people burned, blown up and shot in the streets of Miami at the first sign of any softening of anti-Castro sentiment within this mostly affluent Cuban-American community. Under these conditions, nobody really knows what this group of Miami Cubans really want. They have never been entirely free of duress and coercion. If left to his or hers own devices without the threat of harm, do we actually know how they would vote?

The story behind our national policies resulting from Miami politics for the past 50 years is nothing more than a family feud, but one which rivals a Greek tragedy in scope, lasting for all the ensuing generations up to today – a family feud that has disrupted the internal politics of two countries and dictated American foreign policy and US military allocation in the Caribbean for the past half-century.

So, how does one discuss the Hispanic vote in Florida, or for that matter, the nation, when no politician, the media or their pundits actually understand the variety of often conflicting interests, the history, the difference in cultures, or the demographic minutia among the US Hispanic population of which they are attempting to discuss?

JLeslie's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Thanks! I knew you would have a fantastic answer.the Cubans I knew who were over 60 years old always voted Republican, because they hated Kennedy. My Cuban peers and the younger set, I am 44 now, many did vote Democrat. The religiosity of whichever Hispanic group does seem to sway votes, especially for older Latinos. Also, my Venezuelan friends who I think of as very liberal, the loved Clinton, now are a little skiddish because of all the socialist talk in America, and having Chavez screwing with their country.

My husband’s family is Mexican, basically Democrats (his parents are not citizens, so don’t vote, but his siblings and himself are citizens) his brother is gay, so I can’t see him voting for a Republican presidential candidate any time soon, but locally he might, since northern Republicans sometimes are fairly liberal on social issues. His sister cannot stand the blind religiosity of the Republican right wing, although she agrees with taking a hard line on immigration, and agrees with for instance the laws AZ imposed on being able to ID people with local enforcement. My husband is liberal on most issues, but has a little moderate to right leaning tendencies on some issues, so do I for that matter, but we are both registered Democrats, and the majority of the time vote that way. My husband’s family generally feels people should have to come into the country legally, are annoyed Cubans get asylum, and feel the American government purposely ignores the illegal immigrant Hispanic population and uses them as endentured servants, I tend to agree. We, and his family, are basically middle to upper middle class here (in MX they were part of the upper class for most of their growing up years, his father owning several business that did very well for a while, but later some bad business decisions took a huge toll). I should say my husband is the least opinionated of all of them on these things. He is also the one who is incredibly greatful for America, the opportunities it has given him, and the ideals of the country. He is one of those immigrants waving the American flag with a huge smile on his face through emotional tears.

One question: if Castro falls, and Cuba rids itself of communism, would we quickly change our asylum policy? Would it affect the status of anyone already here? Do you think we would be very tight with allowing Cubans into the country even still? Don’t you think they would be trying to come in and never leave? Personally, I think we should allow direct flights to Cuba, I think people should be able to visit their family. I also am ok with opening trade. If we can trade with China why not Cuba? And, my husband’s cousin had some medicine during her pancreatic cancer fight from Cuba that seemed to work. They can’t be sure of course, but the doctors at MD Anderson in Houston were impressed with how the cancer stopped growing in the pancreas, but it was in other parts of the body and eventually did cause her death. They could go to Cuba because they are Mexican, Americans don’t have that option.

wundayatta's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Thank you so much for that article. How is it that you know so much about this? Did you read that article in the New Yorker a few weeks ago about Marco Rubio? If so, what do you think? It raises a more national issue—that of Univision’s relationship to Rubio.

All of which makes me think about the class nature of immigration policy. Seems like the folks in Miami who are rabid about Castro basically take it personally. For them it’s about money and class and land—their money, class and land—not so much anything truly ideological.

For everyone else, it’s about money and class, too, which this overall feeling that anti-immigrationism against hispanics is probably a lot like anti-immigrationism in the past against the Irish, the Poles, and anyone else who suffered, perhaps including African slaves. That is, if you are poor and uncultured and uneducated, and you don’t know how to pee in a toilet not how to stop swearing in front of women and children, and you don’t know how to handle your drink and get involved with guns and violence, then you are heathen immigrants and we don’t want you here…. legally, anyway.

That is, we want to be able to kick you out if you get obstreperous; forget your place as a slave worker. If I’m right, then anti-immigrationism really is a class issue and doesn’t and won’t distinguish between different groups of hispanics, except for the rich ones.

The only people who will care for hispanics, I’m speculating, are more recent immigrants who have some legal status. They remember what it was like and have sympathy for those who currently are entering the country.

For the rest of the non-hispanic America, it’s probably fairly simple, too. If you’re Republican, you don’t want the dirty peasants running around making a mess of things, and taking away American jobs (yeah, what American wants that job?) Kick them out. Keep them out (but secretly sabotage the effort since none of this will work unless you have dirty hispanics around as an example, not to mention to be able to hire cheaply). In fact, if you make it hard for them to be here, they get even cheaper to hire and easier to manipulate, since they have no place to go for help if you screw them over.

Of course, Liberals (my white knights), remember what it was like to be an immigrant too, and if they are smart liberals (and it pains me to think there are liberals who aren’t), they’ll understand that we need immigration as a source of labor more now than ever before. The baby boomers are about to need all kinds of home care and nursing home care, and only poor immigrants are going to be willing to take those jobs.

Immigration is a fractious issue and I think it is mostly an emotional issue. It has to do with jobs and following rules and fear and dirtiness in most people’s minds. I don’t think very many people care about the actual history, data and research regarding immigration. I think most politicians use it as a pandering issue. They know they don’t have to make sense so long as they touch the hot buttons of whoever is listening.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta Great questions, looking forward to @Espiritus_Corvus’ answers. I do believe class affects these issues, but to counter one thing about recent immigrants empathasizing with new immigrants coming in….I find recent immigrants who did everything legal are disgusted by those who run across the border illegally, and get away with it. Those who did it legally, did all the paperwork, paid the money, sweated waiting for immigration to approve them, and then a whole underclass just walks in? Drives them crazy. They do empathasize with wanted to make legal immigration more accessible, but are annoyed by those who bypass the system altogether. Remember, recent immigrants who also came over illegally, and might have empathy cannot vote, they are not who the politicans are talking to, with the exceotion of family members possibly who are legal citizens.

My sister-in-law, who I mentioned above, I think her gig about the AZ laws is she fully believes countries should be ale to protect their borders. She believes it about MX, America, Israel, all countries, from immigration to people throwing bombs. She resents the tough time she has been given by immigration in the past, and they have hassled her before, but she does not empathasize with those who bypass it completely.

wundayatta's avatar

@JLeslie I can see that people who follow rules would be really ticked off at those who don’t. I have no idea how many are in all these categories. I wonder if there are any good studies looking at the differences between those who do the paperwork and those who don’t.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta I never tried to research the topic. Probably someone keeps some sort of count, but it would have to have some amount of inaccuracies for obvious reasons. There are people who marry to stay in the country, so I wonder how they would be counted? They may have arrived legally, then been running out of time on their visa, eventually getting married to stay here. That is legal immigration, but not really.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s particularly difficult to get accurate information about undocumented folks since, well, obviously, they don’t want to be found by anyone official, nor give information to anyone who might remotely be related to an official. Although, if I recall correctly, there was a jelly who announced she was undocumented.

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