Friday, June 15, 2007
Given the recent rhetoric in Republican circles about immigration policy, I found this story spectacularly amusing.
The California Republican Party has decided no American is qualified to take one of its most crucial positions — state deputy political director — and has hired a Canadian for the job through a coveted H-1B visa, a program favored by Silicon Valley tech firms that is under fire for displacing skilled American workers.
Christopher Matthews, 35, a Canadian citizen, has worked for the state GOP as a campaign consultant since 2004. But he recently was hired as full-time deputy political director, with responsibility for handling campaign operations and information technology for the country’s largest state Republican Party operation, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring confirmed in a telephone interview this week.
In the nation’s most populous state — which has produced a roster of nationally known veteran political consultants — “it’s insulting but also embarrassing … to bring people from the outside who don’t know the difference between Lodi and Lancaster … and who can’t even vote,” said Karen Hanretty, a political commentator and former state GOP party spokeswoman.
Wait, it gets funnier. Matthews was hired by Michael Kamburowski, the state GOP’s chief operations officer, who is … wait for it … an Australian citizen.
“There are talented Republicans in California, and the message that (party chair) Ron Nehring is sending is that there’s no talent pool here,” Hanretty said.
Just to be clear, I don’t care who the California Republican Party hires. I’m sure these two guys are perfectly capable political professionals.
But given the GOP’s immigration policy, and it’s take on the H-1B visa program, these hires are a little surprising, aren’t they?
The hiring of two immigrants at top Republican Party posts has handed ammunition to critics who note that many Republicans have spoken critically about the impacts of waves of Mexican immigrants.
“The hypocrisy is disgusting,” said longtime Democratic Party activist Gloria Nieto, policy director at San Jose-based Services Immigration Rights and Education Network, or SIREN, an immigrant advocacy nonprofit organization.
Nieto argued that the party has painted Latinos “as the brown menace. … But it’s perfectly OK to hire people from outside the country? What does it say about the Republican Party that they import their hired guns?”
As for the H-1B visa program in specific, it’s supposed to focus on “specialized workers” whose unique skills are unavailable in the American workforce. According to Labor Department regulations, employers are supposed to make a good-faith effort to hire Americans, and then rely on “specialized” immigrants if necessary.
So, in other words, the California Republican Party is suggesting that in the largest state in the Union, there were no qualified people to serve as the state deputy political director.