Ironically, Republicans have a strong case to make on immigration if only they choose to make it. They could start by pointing out the failings and dishonesty of the Obama administration, and then make clear that — despite what you hear from some Republicans in states like Arizona, Georgia, and South Carolina where lawmakers are eager to deputize local cops to enforce federal immigration law — anti-illegal immigrant does not mean anti-Latino. Then they could spell out their own plans to provide their supporters in the business community with guest workers, and provide workers who are already here with a pathway to earned legal status.
Then and only then can Republicans hope to engage Latino voters on a host of issues on which the two might agree such as gay marriage, abortion, strong defense, lower taxes etc. And why is that? It’s because, whether Latinos are putting up with Democrats who take them for granted or Republicans who write them off, the single most important commodity to Latino voters is respect. They hunger for it, and they don’t get enough of it.
That’s why, for both parties, how they handle the immigration issue will do nothing less than define the nature of their relationship with the Latino community. If that relationship is based on deceit or demagoguery, then it won’t go anywhere. But if it’s based on respect, then anything is possible.
With the right message and right candidates, both parties have a shot at winning the support of Latino voters. And in a country that is becoming more Latino every day, and where the electorate adds half a million new eligible Latino voters every year, neither party can afford to squander that opportunity.