For good reason: Every 60 seconds, another Hispanic turns 18.
Senator-Elect Ted Cruz (endorsed by CV, by the way) said Republicans have to do better with Hispanics and warned that his home state of Texas would become Democratic ‘blue’ soon if they didn’t.
Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity announced that he has ‘evolved’ on immigration and that he now supports a pathway to citizenship alongside border security.
But that doesn’t mean all conservatives are getting on the immigration reform bandwagon. Rich Lowry of National Review pushed back at GOP attempts to pass immigration reform, calling it “Amnesty Fantasy.” He wrote:
“It’s one thing to argue that amnesty is the right policy on the merits. It’s another to depict it as the magic key to unlocking the Latino vote. John McCain nearly immolated himself within the Republican party with his support for amnesty and did all of four points better among Latino voters in 2008 than Mitt Romney did in 2012, according to exit polls.”
Lowry gets at a half-truth. Yes, McCain was a strong advocate of comprehensive immigration reform well before his 2008 presidential run and yes, this didn’t do anything to help him win the Hispanic vote.
Well, let’s ask ourselves why.
Think about it. No Republican nominee in 2008 would have done well with the Hispanic vote in 2008 after the heated rhetoric that erupted during the 2006 debate on Bush’s immigration plan. Talk of ‘anchor babies’ and building walls and deportations. It’s amazing we still get over 20%…
Likewise, the 2012 election was going to be difficult for Romney, given his self-deportation line and his strong opposition to Rick Perry’s Dream Act. And pro-life activist Raimundo Rojas can tell you: Romney’s hard-line stance on immigration was widely and repeatedly reported in the Hispanic media.
But I grant Lowry this much: Immigration reform is no silver bullet. We are not going to automatically win over Hispanics by simply passing landmark legislation to deal with our broken immigration system (a failed government program if there ever was one).
Though, I’m not sure anyone is really suggesting that it’s some kind of magic cure all. Most conservative supporters of immigration reform suggest that it’s a ‘gateway issue’ for Latinos. It lets them know if you want them as neighbors. Once you establish that you’re willing to reasonably work on a solution to the problem, then they will listen to you about other issues. But as conservative activist Grover Norquist noted, it’s hard to talk to them about your favorite issue if they think you want to deport their sister.
And I, for one, want us all to welcome Hispanics to the pro-life and pro-family movement. We need to keep growing our cause. And how can one really think about the Catholic vote in the United States without thinking about the Hispanic vote?
Hispanics are strongly pro-life and pro-family. They have a strong work ethic and are very entrepreneurial. Ronald Reagan, who served as Governor of California, famously said: “Latinos are Republican — they just don’t know it yet.”
So let’s begin the process of welcoming them and working with them. We at CatholicVote already have. Before the election, we launched VotoCatolico.org. It’s a modest first step. And there’s more work to do. But it’s gotta start somewhere.