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GOP Problem with Latino Voters Is a Matter of Substance, Not Tone

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rubio and romneyA range of stories today focus on Republican problems with Latino voters. Apparently, GOP leaders across the party are finally recognizing that their anti-immigrant, anti-Latino brand is seriously threatening any chance of their winning some Latino votes this fall.

Among the stories include a piece from POLITICO, entitled “GOP Fears Latino Revolt.”  The article quotes extensively from Republican officeholders and strategists, who admit the party has a problem with Latino voters.  However, most of the critiques focus more on Republican problems with tone, rather Republican problems with policy.  For example, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “You can’t win without doing well among Hispanic voters, and I don’t think it’s any secret that the primary has not been particularly helpful from the standpoint of the tone.”

Here’s the GOP’s real immigration problem: it continues to embrace far-right policies crafted and advanced by anti-immigrant zealot Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), extremist organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and Romney immigration advisor Kris Kobach. Amazingly, their plan to drive 11 million immigrants out of the country (an idea known as “self-deportation“) has gained traction within the GOP, and has been adopted by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Speculation that Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) might singlehandedly improve Republican popularity with Latinos also misses the mark.  Rubio’s latest attempt at changing the tone, a soon-to-be-proposed stripped-down version of the DREAM Act, would create a permanent second class of Americans.  For Latino voters looking to leaders in Washington to provide much-needed relief to their families and young people, Rubio’s latest gambit is pure election year politicking.

Yesterday, in an interview with Fox News’s Juan Williams, Rubio even refused to reject the Romney “self-deportation” plan, instead suggesting that undocumented immigrants should apply for a guest worker visa and then return to their native country. This suggests undocumented immigrants who have been here for a decade or more would have to sign up for a short term work contract before having to leave a country they now call home — a far cry from the path to citizenship supported by President Obama and most Democrats. No wonder polling from Fox News Latino shows Obama beating Romney 70%-14%.  The same poll also found that most Latino voters would not change their vote if Rubio were added to the ticket (and 14% would actually be less likely to vote Republican).  Once again, it’s clear that a politician’s position on the issues matters more to Latinos than his ethnicity.   

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

We’ll know leading Republicans are serious about immigration reform when they stand up to the anti-immigrant hardliners in the Republican Party and use their political capital to deliver concrete legislative relief rather than a cosmetic shift in tone.