On November 4, 2014, the Republican Party made black history. Mia Love is the first Republican black woman elected to Congress. Black women aren’t exactly clamoring to join the Republican Party, so it’s obvious why this is an impressive feat. Love also became another “first” that night—the first Haitian-American elected to Congress. But, as a woman born to immigrants, a group Republicans have been hostile towards for decades, Mia Love’s membership in the Grand Old Party is downright hypocritical.
Her parents, Marie and Jean Maxime Bourdeau, fled Haiti in the 1970s after Jean Maxime had been threatened by the Tonton Macoutes, the brutal police force of Francois Duvalier, the late dictator. According to Mother Jones, the immigration law in place at the time offered the possibility of her parents gaining citizenship if they had a child born in the United States. The law was set to expire in January 1976. On December 6, 1975, Love was born in a Brooklyn hospital.
“My parents have always told me I was a miracle and our family’s ticket to America,” Love told the Deseret News in a 2011 interview.
Mia Love grew up to be a staunch conservative. The congresswoman-elect is not shy about telling people the story of how her immigrant parents pulled themselves up by their bootstraps (a popular talking point among her party) but she fails to mention the part that angers Republicans to their core—the undocumented part.
Although Love claims that her parents came here legally, there are several discrepancies that arise in her story. Her parents entered on tourist visas, which are typically granted for up to six months at the discretion of the immigration officer. This implies that Love’s parents overstayed their visas, became undocumented, and when Love was born, they were able to apply for legal status. If that were the case, then Mia Love is what Republicans pejoratively refer to as an “anchor baby.”
What Love’s parents did to escape Haiti was common in the 1970s and 1980s, and her success can be contributed to her parents immigrating to the United States. One would think that with a story like that, Mia Love would be aggressively campaigning for better immigration laws so that other children of immigrants could be as successful as she.
Instead her hypocrisy is astounding. At a 2012 town hall meeting in Utah, Love sounded indignant that an estimated 60 percent of undocumented immigrants were in the U.S. on expired visas. To prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the country, Love proposes the same old Republican canard of securing the border. On Monday, Love joined Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, at a press conference called to criticize Obama’s planned executive action on immigration. Lee supports a bill that would deny citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants.
Republicans have moved so far to the right on immigration that Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP candidate, felt compelled to suggest self-deportation as opposed to a sensible path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Instead of working with the Obama administration (whose record on immigration has been nothing to write home about) Republicans have pussyfooted around on immigration, choosing to leave millions of young people in deportation limbo.
The morning after the election, Twitter lit up with the news of the Republicans having made black history by electing their first woman to Congress; even those with different political views congratulated her, but I couldn’t help but feel betrayed.
I’m Haitian-American, too. My father and mother left Haiti in 1981 and 1982, respectively, and overstayed their tourist visas. They met in Brooklyn and had my brother and me there, making us automatic U.S. citizens. Being an American citizen has bestowed upon me privileges I would have only dreamed about if I were born in Haiti.
An easier, more sensible path to legal status for undocumented immigrants in the United States would allow families like mine to succeed. But Mia Love doesn’t see it that way. Her lack of empathy for immigrants signals that she may be in the right party. After all, “I’ve got mine, screw you!” is the rallying cry of the ultra conservative.
Originally published in The American Prospect.