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GOP Outreach to Latinos Draws Fire from Conservatives

The Hispanic Leadership Network, a new organization that seeks to build a bridge between Latinos and the center-right, is being strongly criticized by some conservatives.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

February 15, 2011 - 12:06 am
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Who’s afraid of a little outreach to Latinos by moderate Republicans? Both the hard right and the hard left, it seems, albeit for different reasons.

The left is easy to figure out. They benefit from the status quo and the virtual monopoly that the Democratic Party holds on Latino voters, an unearned benefit if ever there was one.

The Obama administration has proven that. It regularly plays Latinos for chumps, using the immigration issue as both a carrot and a stick. Aware that many Latinos favor a comprehensive approach that secures the border but also provides a pathway to legal status for the undocumented, President Obama will — on Cinco de Mayo or whenever he speaks to a Latino audience — promise to deliver just that. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, his administration — specifically, the Department of Homeland Security — has continued the same workplace raids that Obama criticized while running for president and seems to be trying to set a record for deporting as many illegal immigrants as possible.

In fact, during a recent speech in El Paso, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano bragged that the administration has deported nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants in its first two years. There was no applause from the left, who voted for Obama in part because he criticized a system where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents “terrorized” families and local communities. Well, who is doing the terrorizing now?

But what’s more interesting is why the right has its knickers in a twist over attempts by prominent Republicans such as Newt Gingrich, Mike Pence, Norm Coleman and Jeb Bush to mend fences with Latinos, many of whom are upset over the GOP’s harsh language on immigration, and convince them that Republican candidates want their votes. The “kiss and make up” tour is not an officially sanctioned activity of the GOP. But it is terribly necessary given that Latinos are expected to make up 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050.

One stop on the tour was Miami, where Coleman and Bush recently helped convene the inaugural meeting of the Hispanic Leadership Network, a new organization that intends to act as a bridge between Hispanics and the “center-right” movement.

I was invited to participate as part of a media panel. The whole event was on the record, and there was a good amount of press in the room.

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