Conservative leaders warn the GOP to change its tune
by Erica González/EDLP
Latino conservatives meeting in Washington DC are sounding an alarm—if the GOP is not responsive to the nation’s fastest growing demographic, Republicans could pay a heavy price in the 2012 elections.
It is the same message that Latino liberals send to Democrats. But Republicans, who lost the inroads they made with Hispanic voters during the early George W. Bush years, are at a far bigger disadvantage.
That disadvantage has been self-fueled. Too many Republican leaders have called for punitive immigration enforcement measures without addressing the separation of families. Others have been slow to denounce the hostile rhetoric directed against immigrants, especially those who are Latino.
At a DC forum organized by Newt Gingrich’s The Americano, a web site with conservative views, Latino leaders called on the GOP to change its tune on immigration.
“It’s time for conservatives and Republicans to reclaim the issue of immigration,” said Alfonso Aguilar, head of the DC-based Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. Aguilar emphasized that the GOP should depart from an anti-illegal immigration message for a pro legal immigration position.
Latino conservatives at the conference generally agree that the immigration system is antiquated. But some are not jumping on board with other aspects that have come under fire. For example, Aguilar said that a border fence should be finished.
On the Dream Act, which would give some undocumented high school graduates a chance to legalize their status, others said that Democrats, not Republicans, were the barrier.
Chris Salcedo of the Conservative Hispanic Society in Dallas, TX said Democrats are trying to swing the door wide open with the Dream Act. “The devil is in the details,” Salcedo said.
While there are different opinions on how immigration reform measures should proceed, the message made clear is that Republicans should embrace Latinos—and that means embracing issues that are important to them.
How seriously the GOP takes the calls made in DC yesterday and today will matter for 2012. But it matters more immediately for Gaby Pacheco, a conference participant.
Pacheco is one of the “Dreamers”, the group of undocumented youths who walked from Florida to DC to rally for passage of the Dream Act. “I think it’s key and important to understand that yes, we can talk, but we have to act,” said Pacheco when asked why she was attending the conference. “Immigration has been like a ghost and bad omen that doesn’t allow me to live,” she said.