WASHINGTON – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the future of the Republican Party depends on what the Republicans do to expand its appeal among Hispanic voters and show them that the GOP is not “just the party of deportation.”
“I’ve been saying over and over that the Republican Party cannot win until it’s more diverse, until it looks like the rest of America,” he said.
During a Tuesday symposium hosted by the Media Research Center (MRC) and the American Principles Project (APP), the Kentucky Republican and potential 2016 presidential candidate said that if the GOP wants to appeal to minority groups it has to “show up” and “say something.”
Paul said Republicans should work to get the “the door ajar” for minority groups.
“I think that what’s happened is that there’s not the perception of empathy coming from the Republican Party, that we care where they are coming from and that we care what their problems are. Until we get to that point, they’re not going to listen to any of the next message,” he said.
Paul highlighted Mitt Romney’s poor showing among Hispanics in the 2012 presidential election as a reason for winning their support.
“There’s enormous upside potential. We could probably double our vote, but we’ve got to get the door ajar.”
While Paul opposed the comprehensive immigration reform package in the Senate last year, he has indicated his support for other approaches to reform.
He said one way to appeal to Latino voters is by ensuring that “Mrs. Garcia’s nephew is not going to be sent home to Mexico” because “everybody, even those who are here legally, know somebody who is here who doesn’t have the proper visa.”
“The other thing to acknowledge is, it’s not always the individual’s fault,” he said, referring to those who are undocumented. “Sometimes it’s a child who has no control over this. But sometimes it’s also someone who came here and tried to use our system.”
“We as conservatives talk a lot about big government and how [it] never seems to work. We’re always talking about Obamacare now, how big government is a disaster…. Well, guess what? Big government is not very good with the visa system, either. Part of the problem is not the fault of those who are coming to this country and try to use it, part of the problem is big government,” he added.
In contrast to the strategy laid out by some conservatives who argue that the GOP should move beyond immigration and focus on issues where Latinos and conservatives share common ground like abortion and marriage, Paul called for a change in tone when talking about illegal-immigration reform.
“The bottom line is that the Hispanic community…is not going to hear us until we get beyond that issue. They’re not going to care whether we go to the same church or have the same values or believe in the same kind of future of the country until we get beyond that. So showing up helps. But you’ve got to show up and you’ve got to say something and it has to be different than what we’ve been saying,” he said.
Paul said he opposed the immigration bill because it still did not allow for those on work visas to switch jobs. He gave an example of an immigrant who came to the United States on a legal work visa to pick crops for $9 per hour but every day on his way to work saw an ad for a construction job that offered better pay.
“You become an illegal alien by taking a better paying job,” Paul said. “That has to be addressed. If you don’t address that, you’ll continue to have an illegal immigration problem.”
Asked by MRC President Brent Bozell how many times he has appeared on Spanish-language media outlets, Paul said he has made about half a dozen such appearances since becoming a senator in 2011. He added that he hoped to do more and that other Republicans should do the same.
“We need to do more of it. I need to brush up on my Spanish,” Paul said. “Even though I took Spanish in school, mine’s not good enough to do an entire interview in Spanish.”
Paul’s remarks were followed by a panel that focused on strategies and tactics for communicating the conservative message to U.S. Spanish-language news outlets.
MRC Latino Director Ken Oliver-Méndez presented some of the findings of the organization’s first analysis of Spanish-language nightly news on Univision and Telemundo.
“What we found is a pronounced leftward tilt in both networks’ reporting, particularly in coverage of U.S. domestic news,” said Oliver-Méndez. “As it stands now, Democratic, left-leaning sources consistently dominate the narrative in these networks’ coverage of domestic issues.”