[guest post by Dana]
Governor Brown of California took a trip to Mexico last week for private meetings with business leaders to advance California’s climate change agenda. But there was more to the visit than just weather:
At a time when Republicans fret over their lack of Latino support, the governor is cementing ties that could benefit him and fellow Democrats in this election year.
While in Mexico, Brown announced a new effort to protect the rights of migrant workers and signed agreements aimed at increasing economic, educational and environmental cooperation with California’s southern neighbor.
“Anything the governor can do to show empathy to the Mexican community helps Democrats here,” said Allan Hoffenblum, a former Republican strategist who publishes a nonpartisan election guide.
Brown, running for an unprecedented fourth term this year, demurred when asked about the political ramifications of his visit to Mexico.
“To the extent that there are any important issues in this campaign, this probably won’t be one of them,” he said.
Still, Brown repeatedly included references to California’s liberal view of immigrants in his public events this week.
“Some people are trying to keep them out,” Brown said at the announcement of a tourism partnership with Mexico’s largest airline. “And here we are, on the side of bringing more people in.”
Of course, it’s all about politics:
Every vote counts, and driving the Latino vote in those … races is extremely important,” said Roger Salazar, a Democratic political consultant.
Brown was not originally scheduled to talk about illegal immigration but the vexing issue was added to his schedule. In his talks, he stated that he would support California building more shelters for the unaccompanied minors:
“Certainly I’d do everything I could to make sure California will do its part to shelter any young children that are in need of protection,” the Democratic governor told reporters after meeting with José Horacio Gómez, the Mexico-born archbishop of Los Angeles, and several other religious leaders. “There are already a number of young immigrants, or young refugees, in Ventura, and I certainly would support additional shelters to deal with the particular immediate challenge we have.”
Brown also took a shot at Texas Governor Rick Perry:
In fewer than 48 hours in Mexico, Brown criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ordering of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border, and he appealed to politicians to adopt the “call of all religions to welcome the stranger.”
It should be noted that back in 1975, then Governor Brown did not want to welcome the stranger, quite the opposite. Brown objected to the Fed’s plan to dump the South Vietnamese war refugees on California, in spite of the war refugees fleeing a tyrannical dictatorship and that brutalized its people:
“We can’t be looking 5,000 miles away and at the same time neglecting people who live here.
“The new governor of California, Jerry Brown, was very concerned about refugees settling in his state. Brown even attempted to prevent planes carrying refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento. . . . The secretary of health and welfare, Mario Obledo, felt that this addition of a large minority group would be unwelcome in California. And he said that they already had a large population of Hispanics, Filipinos, blacks, and other minorities.”
In fact, then Senator Joe Biden complained about the Ford administration’s move to bring Vietnamese refugees to the U.S., saying the White House “had not informed Congress adequately about the number of refugees.”
In a 2007 interview with NPR, Julia Taft, who had been the head of President Gerald Ford’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Indochinese Refugee, related the following re Brown:
TAFT: At first, it was politically difficult. Our biggest problem came from California.
TAFT: Jerry Brown.
ELLIOTT: Then the governor.
TAFT: Then the governor. And Mario Obledo, who was the – I guess he was called the secretary of welfare or something. They were very difficult. They didn’t want any of these refugees, because they had also unemployment. They had already a large number of foreign-born people there. They had – they said they had too many Hispanics, too many people on welfare, they didn’t want these people. And we spent a lot of effort trying to ease their concern and really established for the whole country programs where the federal government would compensate states.