Susana Martinez is featured prominently in this week’s edition of Newsweek as the national magazine that in 2010 merged with the politically liberal website The Daily Beast runs a generally positive profile of the New Mexico governor.
There’s also this photo accompanying the article — the nearly obligatory shot taken of every New Mexico politician, where they’re photographed wearing blue jeans with majestic mountains in the background:
The article goes over some biographical stuff that’s familiar to those who follow politics in the state, although there is a poignant story about the governor’s sister Lettie, who’s been disabled since birth, and how raising Lettie influenced Martinez’ decision not to have children of her own (“In a way, I saw myself as already having raised a child,” she tells reporter Andrew Romano).
But one of the most interesting things the article brings up is Martinez’ take on the debate about how the US should handle the problem of illegal immigration. During a GOP presidential debate in January, Mitt Romney said, “the answer is self-deportation,” while Barack Obama made an appeal to Latino voters a couple months ago in which he promised to tackle immigration reform — after the November election (“My hope is that, after this election, the Latino community will have sent a strong message that they want a bipartisan effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”)
From the Newsweek article:
As we sit down at a local Starbucks, I ask about immigration. It’s a topic she has been reluctant to discuss since winning the Republican primary in 2010, so what comes next is surprising: a battle plan that contradicts nearly everything the GOP has been doing and saying since 2007, Romney’s “self-deportation” strategy included. “‘Self-deport?’ What the heck does that mean?” Martinez snaps. “I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign. But now there’s an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why.”
Naturally, Martinez has some suggestions. First, Republicans should remind Latinos that Obama pledged to pass comprehensive immigration reform by the end of his initial year in office, but “didn’t even have the courage to try.” Next, the GOP should outflank the president–on the left–by proposing its own comprehensive plan. “I absolutely advocate for comprehensive immigration reform,” Martinez says, , sipping a caramel macchiato. “Republicans want to be tough and say, ‘Illegals, you’re gone.’ But the answer is a lot more complex than that.” Martinez envisions an approach “with multiple levels”: increased border security; deportation for criminals; a guest-worker program for people who want “to go freely back and forth across the border to work”; a DREAM Act-style pathway to citizenship, through the military or college, for children brought here illegally by their parents; and a visa (coupled with a “penalty” or a “tagback”) that allows rest of the illegal population to remain in the U.S. while they follow standard naturalization procedures.
Martinez’s point is not that Republicans should peddle so-called “amnesty.” In New Mexico, she’s taken a lot of heat from Latinos for repeatedly pushing to repeal a state law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses; she also opposes a standalone DREAM Act, arguing that politicians can’t “fix [immigration] by saying, ‘Here’s the DREAM Act and we’re done. It has to be part of a larger plan.” She simply believes that a more pragmatic approach will help Republicans in the long run, particularly if it’s paired with the sort of issues-based appeal that inspired her to switch parties and a more aggressive campaign to recruit Hispanic candidates for local office. Maybe then the GOP can finally do what she did in her first statewide contest: approach the magic 40-percent mark among Latino voters. That alone would be enough to swing a presidential election.
You can read the entire Newsweek article by clicking here.
Hat tip to Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican for alerting me to the Newsweek piece.