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GOP: Giving Up On The Latino Vote?

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Please note the following column was translated from Spanish to English and is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper credit. This column is available online in Spanish here.

The Republican Party seems to have a death wish.

In the fight for the presidential nomination, the Republican team is lead by a neurosurgeon with strange ideas, Ben Carson, and by a walking spectacle, Donald Trump.

Since the CNBC debate, the conclusion of the day is that Florida Senator Marco Rubio has emerged as the most favored candidate of the Republican establishment, those who donate millions of dollars to campaigns, and those who aspire to attract the Latino vote at the national level.  This despite the fact that Rubio has abandoned the type of comprehensive immigration reform he once supported.  Now he favors reform in steps, such that legalization and potential green cards only come after the borders are “controlled” (even though unauthorized immigration is currently at its lowest levels in 40 years), and after we have implemented a legal immigration system based on “merit” rather than family ties, which was the way his family came from Cuba.

Jeb Bush, the big hope of Republican Latino leaders, is down for the count in the eyes of observers who say that the ex-governor of Florida has not been able to distinguish himself among the Republican hopefuls.  Bush, who distanced himself from his initial support for a path to citizenship and now talks only of legalization is, without a doubt, the one who could use his personal story and connections to appeal to the Latino vote. He is married to a Mexican woman, completely bilingual, ex-governor of a state that is vital to win in the presidency, and brother and son of two ex-presidents popular with Hispanics–especially his brother George W. Bush, the only Republican to have won 44% of the Latino vote in his 2004 re-election and the last one to have occupied the White House, thanks to that fact.

Now, following complaints from Republican candidates who aspire to lead a world power but claim harm because of the questions asked by debate moderators, the Republican National Committee (RNC) will suspend NBC News’ right to host future debates, which includes the only Spanish-language network that was scheduled to broadcast a Republican debate, Telemundo. Brilliant.

And the recently elected Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, reiterated this Sunday that he has no plans to bring immigration reform to a vote in Congress because he “can’t trust” President Barack Obama after he issued executive orders on immigration.  What Ryan doesn’t say is that his party won’t bring broad immigration reform—like what passed the Senate in 2013—to a vote because the legislative agenda is dictated by the anti-immigrant wing of the House of Representatives.

Ryan should know better.  In 2012 he hoped to be Mitt Romney’s vice president and he defended the candidate’s platform of self-deportation which helped garner just 27% of the Latino vote—costing them the White House.  Following this debacle, Ryan sided up to the Illinois Democrat Representative Luis Gutiérrez and Republican Hispanics who tried, without success, to advance reform with a path to citizenship along the lines that Ryan once supported.

In 2005, Ryan supported the Sensenbrenner bill that criminalized undocumented immigrants; in 2010 he voted against the DREAM Act.

But he cut his teeth politically working for conservatives with pragmatic immigration positions, like Jack Kemp and William Bennett of Empower America, who in 1994 opposed the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 in California.  Ryan was Kemp’s speech writer.

It’s a shame that he has bowed to the pressure of the anti-immigrant wing of Congress.

Although we have four months to go until voting begins in the GOP caucuses and primaries, and one year until the presidential elections, Republicans keep signaling the fact that they are giving up the Hispanic vote.

Maribel Hastings is Senior Advisor to America’s Voice.