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GOP Can’t Afford to Alienate Hispanics

Republicans are making life easy for Democrats who don’t deserve to have the level of support they have with Latino voters.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

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December 5, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Republicans can be so shortsighted. They really don’t seem to understand the harm they’re doing to themselves, their party, and their future electability when they anger and alienate Hispanics — one of the fastest-growing parts of the electorate — by making dumb moves on immigration.

The latest dumb move: House Speaker John Boehner seems poised to appoint a pair of extremist and “enforcement-only” lawmakers — Rep. Steve King, R-IA, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX — to key positions with direct oversight of the immigration issue. There are those Republicans who look at immigration in all its complexities, who recognize it as an economic issue, who are careful to use measured and respectful language, and who look for solutions to problems and not just sound bites that rile up the base. King and Smith are not those kinds of Republicans. They’re the more basic models that naively believe the only reason we have illegal immigrants in this country is because we lack the will to deport more of them.

Not surprisingly, at least one prominent group of Hispanic Republicans has already objected to these potential appointments. The leaders of Somos Republicans, which calls itself the largest and fastest growing Hispanic Republican organization in the country, recently sent Boehner a letter asking him to reconsider the appointments.

Of particular concern to the group is the fact that King and Smith have both declared their support for gutting the 14th Amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship for the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. So much for conservatives pretending to be strict constructionists. Going after kids is a suicide mission that will bring Latinos out of the woodwork to vote against Republicans for the next fifty years.

When Republicans pull stunts like this, they cut their throats with a constituency that would normally be a natural-fit for the Republican Party because it is conservative on social issues. They’re also playing with fire demographically since Latinos already account for nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population, and they’re on track to account for a third by 2030. And they’re making life easy for Democrats who don’t deserve to have the level of support they have with Latino voters.

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