A few years ago, I defended Arizona’s controversial immigration law. I thought then and now that it was a more moderate approach to curtailing illegal immigration than the media portrayal suggested. Mitt Romney’s failed “self-deportation” gambit aside, I still believe measures aimed at gradually reducing the undocumented population are preferable to either mass legalization or mass deportation.
But it should have been obvious why many Latino Americans feared the law would harm them or lead to racial profiling. Its conservative supporters should have taken their concerns more seriously.
Maybe no agreement could have ever been reached on how to deal with immigration in Arizona. Or maybe the result of such a conversation would have been a better law. Either way, it’s at least possible that open dialogue could have decoupled concern about borders and immigration enforcement from a perceived hostility to Latinos.
Listening to why people view Republican policy initiatives with suspicion is a necessary prerequisite to any conversation that might possibly win converts. A party seeking black votes must take seriously the perception that it wants to reduce the number of black voters.