DeeDee Garcia Blase describes her parents as Kennedy Democrats, but she became a Republican during her service in the U.S. Air Force. In 2006, Blase and her family moved to Phoenix, and in reaction to racist views she encountered in the Republican Party, she started Somos Republicans, a national pro-immigration organization for Latino Republicans. However, Blase recently became an independent and is organizing the Tequila Party movement to encourage Latinos to register to vote—and then get to the polls. For more information, go to tequilapartytour.com.
Where are you from?
I was born in Texas, and my folks moved to Idaho. They moved there for the agriculture work. ... I remember, as a very young toddler, the immigrant labor camp. I was 3 or 4 when they left that work, and my mom became a migrant activist, and my dad went into the private workforce. ... That's why I take this issue so personally. ... I take issue with people who are trying to demonize people who are trying to work, provide for their families and send money back home.
Why register Republican?
When I joined the Air Force, I served during the Gulf War under Bush (Sr.) and then (under) Clinton. Because of my service in the military, I am pro-national-security, and that's why I became a Republican. I am also pro-life and pro-capitalism.
What happened when you moved to Arizona?
In 2006, when I began volunteering for the Republican Party, the first day, I was approached by a woman who wanted to know what my thoughts were on immigration policy. I told her I looked at it from a free-market standpoint and asked her why she took it from this protectionist approach.
Is this why you started Somos Republicans?
Yes. ... I heard Russell Pearce and his controversial statement about Operation Wetback. I couldn't believe these people were using the term wetback: "What is going on? Where did I move to?" I thought I moved to a state where there are a lot of Hispanics, and this shit shouldn't be tolerated. ...Then it got worse. I went to a meeting where Joe Arpaio was speaking, and I heard him cracking jokes about "mysterious Mexican deaths" in his prison. People around me were laughing, and I felt like I was at a Klan meeting.
But you stuck it out?
I helped McCain ... because of his support for the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. ... I had no idea he was going to flip-flop later on. Somos Republicans did grow back then, because we had people like McCain coming to our meetings. At that time, Hispanics viewed him as a hero.
Why focus on the Tequila Party?
Marco Rubio, the highest-ranking Latino Republican in U.S. Senate, recently stated he was only going to support enforcement-only policy, and was against the DREAM Act. I told the executive leadership of Somos that I needed to focus on the Tequila Party. My heart was no longer in growing the Republican Party.
Some people think you have an agenda.
Yeah, I've even been accused of working for Newt Gingrich. ... President Obama in El Paso asked for bipartisan support. The Democrats were not able to pass the DREAM Act, but ... they were able to pass the Obama health-care plan. There's no excuse. They really can't say much.
Were you surprised after the Tequila Party kickoff in Tucson that some were upset over the word tequila?
No, because I talked to my mom before this happened, and she didn't like the word, either. But she's conservative, and she's older, and most of the growth is coming from the younger generations. Every year, there are 500,000 new eligible voters. I am after the young, not my parents.
What happens now?
We chose to kick off in Tucson because of the cultural ethnic-studies crisis taking place. ... Now we're organizing in Kansas, Nebraska, Georgia, Oklahoma and California. I want to focus on Arizona, Kansas and Georgia first.
What do your two sons think of all this?
I think they are of the age where they are into their PlayStations and friends, but they think their mom is cool and involved. My husband is supportive. He understands the need for the Latin vote. That's pretty much it. But me, sometimes, it's sad. I can't believe we are fighting these laws. ... If the Republican Party continues to get really, really bad, I did buy the domain name Somos Independents, just to be prepared.