SAN DIEGO — It’s with a chuckle that Marilinda Garcia recalls the day that her critics demanded to see her papers.
Did this happen in Arizona, the state with the harsh immigration laws? No, it occurred in New Hampshire. And the demand didn’t come from conservatives who are uneasy with illegal immigrants but from liberals who are at odds with a group that they find more troubling: Hispanic Republicans.
The 30-year-old Garcia, a New Hampshire state representative, is a member of that tribe. Besides being young enough to ensure that she’ll be around for a while, she’s smart, likable, and a strong communicator. In other words, she is a liberal’s basic nightmare. Now she’s running for Congress in New Hampshire’s second district. So, as far as those on the left are concerned, she has to be taken down a peg.
The “papers” that Garcia’s critics wanted to see weren’t a birth certificate or green card. You don’t get a green card when you were born in Boston.
As Garcia told me during an interview a few years ago, her mother was born in Italy and her father – who is Mexican-American – was born in Nebraska but raised in Albuquerque, N.M. While Garcia grew up with her Italian relatives, she also loves being Latina. “I accept it,” she told me back then. “I’m proud of it. And it’s great.”
What really interested Garcia’s liberal detractors were her academic transcripts. These busybodies wanted to see if the magna cum laude graduate of Tufts University who went on to study at the New England Conservatory of Music and earn a master’s degree at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government really deserved to attend those schools.
“They saw me as an affirmative action student,” Garcia told me recently. “They said, ‘How do we know you were qualified?’ ”
This wasn’t just about the usual pushback that someone named “Garcia” or “Rodriguez” or “Hernandez” experiences when they attend elite schools. This is about how Hispanic Republicans wind up with targets on their backs.
Just ask Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, Govs. Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former federal appellate court nominee Miguel Estrada, or any prominent Hispanic Republican who has been attacked by what can be a menacing trifecta – the liberal media, left-wing advocacy groups and the Democratic Party.
Garcia had better get used to it if she intends to go to Washington. If she gets there, you can expect her to advocate that more federal issues be handled by the states.
“In the state Legislature,” she said, “I found that my best energy is spent trying to respond to what the federal government sends down the pipeline at us such as unfunded mandates. As much as possible, I want to keep the federal government out of the way of New Hampshire.”
The issue that the media uses to trip up Hispanic Republicans is immigration. They want people like Garcia to be forced to choose between a more compassionate approach favored by her fellow Hispanics and the hard line advocated by many of her fellow Republicans.
“We make it too hard to stay here legally and too easy to stay here illegally,” she said.
Garcia supports making mandatory the e-verify system that allows employers to check the legal status of potential hires. She also thinks the current dialogue is “toxic” and that while she doesn’t have the answer to our immigration problems, “we have to keep people who are here for the right reasons.”
Those on the left are always going to be afraid that the more Hispanic Republicans there are, the more likely Democrats are to lose their stranglehold on Hispanics once those voters see that they really do have a choice between the parties. So, as a way of discrediting Hispanics in the GOP, they’re going to accuse them of being one of three things: dumb, extreme or out of touch.
They must be terrified of Garcia, who has been hit with all three. No sooner had she declared her intention to run for Congress than Democratic state Rep. Peter Sullivan tweeted that Garcia was a “lightweight” in “stiletto heels.” He even compared her to reality star Kim Kardashian.
I don’t see the resemblance. But I do smell fear.
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for U-T San Diego. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.