Latino Tea Party Leader Rips Conyers for Racial Politics

March 2, 2011 - 4:33 AM

john conyers

Ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said discussing immigration was a 'sensitive subject' that could pit minorities against one another. ( Starr)

( – At a House hearing on immigration on Tuesday, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said the debate about the estimated 14 million illegal aliens in the United States is dividing the black and Latino communities. But one witness at the hearing said Mexican-Americans have nothing in common with people who have broken the law by being in the country illegally.

“The notion that is underneath the surface of pitting African-American workers against Hispanic workers against immigrants is so abhorrent and repulsive to me that I want to get it on the table right now,” said Conyers, ranking member on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

“I will be watching very closely anybody that tries to suggest we are going to divide these two minorities, who have much more things in common than they have in difference,” Conyers said.

George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio, Texas, Tea Party who formerly worked in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, objected to Conyers’ implication that Mexican-Americans have tensions with the black community over immigration issues.

“Mr. Conyers, with all due respect, one thing you said a few moments ago as far as abhorrence and the competition between people -- let me tell you what is really abhorrent -- that Hispanic Americans are classified in the same breath with illegal aliens,” Rodriguez said. “We are American citizens."

george rodriguez

George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio, Texas Tea Party, testified at a House hearing on immigration on March 1 that illegal aliens are taking jobs from American workers. ( Starr)

“We are born in this country and we honor this country,” said Rodriguez. Not distinguishing Mexican-Americans from illegal aliens is “unfair and discriminatory,” he added.

In his opening remarks, Conyers said the focus of the hearing – how illegal immigration affects American workers and unemployment – is “a very sensitive subject.”

Rodriguez said in his opening statement that he was a third generation American whose father struggled to support the family by running a printing business. He said one of the greatest challenges faced by Mexican-Americans who lived in Texas towns along the Mexican border was the illegal aliens who came across the border to work for low wages.

“My father’s story is not unique, but rather typical of the experience most Mexican Americans have had in border towns,” Rodriguez said. “Even today, Mexican American, not just in border communities, but everywhere, will tell you that they do not want illegal aliens competing for their jobs in any form or fashion."

“Most Mexican American feel we must do something to stop aliens for entering the country illegally,” Rodriguez said.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was not present for all of the two-hour hearing, but her opening statement mirrored

Maxine Waters

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) did not stay to let witnesses at the hearing respond to her remarks, saying 'I don’t think it’s worth it.' ( Starr)

Conyers’ and blamed Republicans for blocking “comprehensive immigration reform.”

“As a member of Congress representing both Latinos and African Americans I’ve very disappointed with the majorities effort to pit minorities against one another in a blatant attempt to derail comprehensive immigration reform,” Waters said. “Clearly, today’s hearing was organized to divert attention away from the inability to present policies and proposals that would truly stimulate the economy and help put Americans back to work.”

Waters concluded her remarks by rebuffing the witnesses.

“I wish I could stay to hear further from these witnesses but I really don’t think it’s worth it,” Waters said before leaving the room.

The other witnesses at the hearing were Carol Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University; Frank Morris with Progressivse for Immigration Reform; and Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil Human Rights.