Progress on immigration reform may be stalled on Capitol Hill, but House Republicans have not forgotten about the Hispanic community.
The Republican Conference kick-started National Hispanic Heritage Month this week, which began September 15th, with a “GOP Meetup” in the U.S. Capitol Building that brought together Hispanic businessmen, pastors, political activists, and other community leaders from across the country with several representatives who are taking the lead in engaging minority audiences.
Members in attendance included Reps. Trey Radel (Fl-19), David Valadao (CA-21), Bill Flores (TX-17), Jeff Denham (CA-19), and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5). Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) of the House Judiciary Committee and Chairman James Lankford (OK-5) of the Republican Policy Committee participated in a panel discussion for the audience, and former Governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño also stopped by to contribute. All spoke to the positive contributions Hispanics make to their local communities.
Event moderator and GOP Conference Deputy Press Secretary for Hispanic Outreach, Wadi Gaitan, reiterated the theme of “shared ideals and goals” between all conservatives that each elected official evoked in their speech.
And despite what seems to be a decreased political willingness to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill, Thursday’s meeting proved that there were still members of the House who not only recognized the value in producing viable immigration legislation, but had a genuine urgency to see something accomplished. They spoke with a pragmatic understanding of the complexities that make solving the immigration issue a difficult challenge.
Second-term Congressman, Jeff Denham, spoke of his personal experience with a broken immigration system. His wife, Sonia, is a first-generation Mexican-Puerto Rican American, and Denham shared their experience with his father-in-law’s journey through the legal citizenship process.
“It’s a 30-year, three-decade problem, and we have to it get it right,” Denham told the audience, expressing his hopes to see progress within the year.
Goodlatte shared a similar sentiment saying, “The best politics is to get the best policy on this issue.”
While the House does not plan to take up the Senate’s immigration bill, the House Judiciary Committee has passed four separate immigration bills and have four others pending mark-up. None of the legislation is currently scheduled for a vote on the House Floor.
Interestingly enough, while the members renewed their commitment on moving forward with immigration reform, the audience made it clear that immigration wasn’t the only issue on the table for the Hispanic community. Considerable time was spent discussing jobs and the economy, taxes, education, and the harmful effects of Obamacare on small businesses.
The sentiment from the audience was unanimous: Republicans have a real opportunity with Hispanic American voters. Hispanics, be it new immigrant or fourth-generation, are inherently conservative, with most of the population holding dear the values of hard-work, education, and family.
Alfonso Aguilar, Executive Director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, stated, “We don’t win by avoiding issues. We win by having an integrated message.”
Part of a Bigger Picture:
Since the beginning of the 113th Congress, Republicans in the House have made a concerted effort to increase and improve outreach to many different minorities. In fact, leadership has even created new staffing positions to help improve and facilitate events like the one celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers told Townhall, “House Republicans are committed to taking our conservative message and values to every corner of America, to young people and seniors, to Hispanics and African-Americans, to men and women alike"
“The House Republican message is one of greater opportunity for ALL Americans," she said. "Hispanics, just like all Americans, want policies that provide opportunities for good jobs, a quality education, and better future for our kids.”
The GOP event set a tone of rejuvenated optimism, re-opening lines of communication and re-focusing the discussion on a shared vision for our country. Republicans confirmed their commitment and effort to right the ship for everyone in our great nation; and the audience reaffirmed its faith in Republicans to get the job done - and done right.
In addition to Thursday’s meeting, House leadership, along with several other prominent House members, released a video celebrating the contributions of the Hispanic community to the American narrative.
Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority in America, accounting for 53 million people and 17 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2012 Census Bureau estimate.
69 percent of 2012 Hispanic high school graduates went on to enroll in college in the fall.
The Latino community is entrepreneurial in spirit, with 3.1 million Hispanic-owned businesses that will contribute over $468 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013.
Latinos turned out 11.2 million votes in 2012 – a record for the community. However, that was only 48% of all eligible voters, which was significantly lower than the 66.6% turn out rate for white American voters and the 64.1% turn out rate for African American voters.
If harnessed to similar levels in 2014 and 2016, the Hispanic community could have a significant impact on election outcomes. And with such common central beliefs in faith, family, and jobs, there’s no reason why the party shouldn’t see a return to Bush 43-era support in the near future.