Former President Barack Obama said Sunday that the Republican Party is standing in the way of immigration reform and embracing rhetoric that is dangerous for the country.
Obama’s comments came during an in-person question-and-answer keynote at San Diego’s annual L’Attitude conference at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. The event spotlights Latino business, innovation and consumers.
“Right now, the biggest fuel behind the Republican agenda is related to immigration and the fear that somehow America’s character is going to be changed if, people of darker shades, there are too many of them here,” Obama told moderator Gary Acosta, the co-founder and CEO of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.
“I wish I could be more euphemistic about it except (they’re) not that subtle about it — they’re just kind of saying it,” Obama said. “You hear it on hard-right media, you hear it from candidates and politicians, you hear things like ‘great replacement theory’ — I mean, this is not subtle. Unless we’re able to return to a more inclusive vision inside the Republican Party, it’s going to be hard to get a bill done.”
The “great replacement theory” falsely asserts that there’s an active and ongoing effort to replace the White majority with non-Whites, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Such language prevalent today is “dangerous,” Obama said.
“A lot of toxic rhetoric in the atmosphere that characterizes ‘those people’ as ‘different’ and wanting to ‘tear down America’ as opposed to build it up,” he said. “When you have that kind of rhetoric floating around out there, we’ve seen in history that is dangerous rhetoric. It’s dangerous wherever it appears and it’s dangerous here in the United States.
“It’s not part of what’s best in us; it’s not part of what makes this country exceptional.”
Obama said he did not mean to be partisan and acknowledged the Democratic Party’s history as the party of segregation. He also noted some ambivalence among American Latinos on the issue of immigration, noting that Latino voting rates in Texas lagged that of Colorado and California Latinos.
“If Latinos in Texas voted at the same rate as Latinos in Colorado, Texas would be a blue state,” Obama said. “Culturally, we haven’t built up voting habits and connected that to power. In no other parts of your life do you just give your power away.”
Obama did not mention his successor, former President Donald Trump, by name during the one-hour discussion. He did, however, reference Trump twice — once as the driving force behind the GOP’s embrace of restrictive immigration policies and again to highlight Trump’s continuing refusal to accept the result of the 2020 election.