House Democrats have one question for the senators who pushed the immigration reform bill:
Why didn’t you tell us Mexicans could be so conservative?
Six Democrats from the House Judiciary Committee returned Friday from a fact-finding trip to to the US-Mexico border. Their goal was to gather evidence in support of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which was passed by a wide margin in the Senate. The bill is now in the House where members of the Judiciary Committee will decide if they want to push it forward. An important part of the bill would provide a path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.
After five days with Mexican immigrants, the six representatives determined they are “traditional and religious, sort of like American conservatives,” according to a statement by the group.
“They’re really into crosses and prayers and stuff,” said Rep. Annie Kuster, a first-term congresswoman from New Hampshire. “They’re like a darker-skinned mirror image of the Republican base.”
Kuster wonders how her progressive and atheist constituents would react knowing she voted to give a path to citizenship to 11 million pope-worshipping-anti-choice-misogynist Catholics.
“A lot of the fellas down wore emblems of the Virgin Mary,” Kuster said. “When we crossed the border into Mexico, we even saw little shrines right in the middle of public space, which in New Hampshire is just absurd. Our driver made the sign of the cross and kissed his fingers each time we passed a church.”
“It freaked me out,” she said.
To get a better sense of the challenges immigrants face, representatives stayed as guests in immigrants’ homes. It was during these times, the representatives say, that they made the most shocking discoveries, such as that Mexicans have orthodox views regarding the murder of animals.
Very few Mexican immigrants are vegetarian, the lawmakers say, and many even keep chickens that they kill whenever they feel like eating flesh. Some of them also have pigs and goats — also to be capriciously slaughtered.
Perhaps most troubling, the lawmakers said, are gender roles in these immigrant communities.
“The men can be really chauvinistic,” Kuster said. “They were always asking their wives to prepare food for us. I wanted to say to these ladies, ‘oye hermana, it’s 2013. You are free to leave this kitchen. I don’t see any chains.’ But they were so brainwashed, some of them even looked content.”
“The worst were the telenovelas,” Kuster said. “You know, Mexican soap operas. Every night we’d watch these women, slaves to their emotions, fall in love with strong men who break the women’s hearts before riding away on a horse. How do you say ‘sexist’ in Spanish?”
“And the music in the bars,” she said, referring to the norteño style, popular in the region of Sonora. “It’s like country music, but worse. You see guys in cowboy hats, using homophobic slurs to insult their friends, drinking beer and swaggering. It’s truly a throwback to Texas of the 1920s or something. They have nothing in common with us.”
It didn’t take long for the representatives to understand that many of the illegal immigrants they had wanted to help could very well end up becoming conservative Republicans.
“This immigration bill is dead,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a 20-year House veteran who drove the group of legislators from Washington D.C. to the border in his Cadillac Escalade. “Perhaps in a few years we’ll talk about a more selective amnesty program, like for those who come from big cities, and maybe studied literature or law, and who like listening to Mexico’s version of NPR.”
While Kuster won’t support the immigration bill in its current form, she says she might change her mind if it can be modified to include a plan to bring the cultural values of illegal immigrants up the year 2013.
“We send racists to sensitivity training, so maybe we could institute a similar program for immigrants,” she said. “They could be granted points toward citizenship if they went through a program to modernize themselves. Their reward could be low-interest loans for electric cars.”
The lawmakers feel their constituents back home will understand the abrupt change in legislative direction — once the word gets out that many illegal immigrants are potential members of the GOP.
“I hadn’t really thought about [immigrants’ beliefs],” said Brenda Washburn, a kindergarten teacher from Virginia. “I’m very pro-immigration, and I think it’s rotten how we let them languish in legal purgatory for so long. But we don’t really want to give citizenship to people who end up being flag-waving wingnuts, do we?”