Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Update on the O.C. letter

Turns out that the intimidating letter sent to 14,000 people with Latino surnames in Orange County was sent out by the campaign headquarters of a Republican Congressional candidate who is himself a naturalized citizen.

Police have now searched the offices and home of Tan Nguyen who is running for the a seat in the House of Representatives. At a press conference this week, Tan Nguyen said "I am innocent, and there is no way in hell that I am going to withdraw. I am not going to quit this race, and I am going to win this race." The Los Angeles Times reported that Nguyen maintained that a campaign worker sent the letter without his knowledge. At the press conference, he added that, after firing the staffer he said was responsible for it, he was asking her to return because he believes the mailer was fair. California's Attorney General is considering a law suit charging the letter as voter intimidation.

Columnist Ruben Navarrette asserts that the letter "was an exercise in ethnic profiling" since it was sent to individuals with Latino names that happened to show up on a database of Democratic voters. The list included "longtime registered voters in California" and possibly even "fourth-generation Californians." The blogger for Migra Matters carefully tracks the connections between Mr. Nguyen's campaign and anti-immigrant organizations in California.

Vietnamese community leaders are embarrassed by the scandal. Phu Nguyen of the Vietnamese American Community of Southern California told the L.A. Times that "We're here legally and we've gone through great hardships, but I don't think all that gives us any right to look down upon those who got here illegally. Whether we're here legally or illegally, we all strive for the same thing. We come here for the opportunity."

What does it say about our political system that new citizens learn racist scare tactics are acceptable in campaigns? After all, our nation's leaders have demonized immigrants for much of this past year as the means to gain votes. Of course, this does not justify Mr. Nguyen's actions but this extreme example makes us question how far candidates are willing to use the 'immigration card'.