THE TEA PARTY BEGINS ITS LATINO OUTREACH INITIATIVE

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

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The Tea Party group that sponsored a prime-time response last week to President Obama’s State of the Union address is the latest group recognizing the power of the Latino vote. Officials with the Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, have been discussing their own Latino outreach, said Sal Russo, the group’s co-founder.
“We’ve been trying to do a bus tour that would focus on communities that we don’t normally talk to,” Russo said.
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Sal Russo Co-Founder of the Tea Party

Russo, who worked for Ronald Reagan when he was California governor, said the former president had a rule that any campaigning should include voters who didn’t traditionally pick Republicans.  “He believed in going to labor unions, going to places where you don’t normally go, so people could hear his message about cutting taxes and growing the economy,” he said.
Officials of Tea Party groups — national and smaller, local ones — like to point out these days that some of the nation’s most prominent Latino politicians, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, were Tea Party candidates

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The plans by the Tea Party, widely viewed by many liberals as being antithetical to the interests and well-being of minorities, follows an announcement last week by House Republicans about a new, ambitious Latino outreach campaign.  On Feb 11, the House Republican Conference, which essentially represents the chamber’s GOP, launched a Spanish-language Twitter account, @gopespanol. The account is part of a broader plan – still being hashed out – to reach out to Hispanics, and repair their image with them.

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“It’s a recognition that we, as Republicans, did not do as well as we hoped in the 2012 elections with a number of groups – with young people, with women, and with Hispanics,” said Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is chairperson of the conference and was the House GOP liaison to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Not all Republicans and conservatives are on board with the efforts to court Latinos, particularly when it involves relying on Spanish. Some the most conservative Republicans in the House, for instance, see it as pandering.
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Representative Steve King

In an interview with the National Journal, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he is opposed to trying to reach out to Latinos in Spanish. “There’s a conflicting message that comes out from the Republicans if we want to recognize the unifying power of English, and meanwhile, we send out communications in multiple languages,” said King, who has one of the most hard-line approaches to immigration. “Official business and documents needs to be in English.”

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The 2012 presidential elections, and the critical role that Latinos played in the victory of President Barack Obama, led to soul-searching on the part of many Republicans. Romney won only 27 percent support from Hispanics and even less from Asians in the 2012 presidential election. And an AP-GFK poll last month showed 62 percent of voters want to let otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants eventually become citizens — up 12 percentage points from 2010.
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Tea Party members say Latinos, and other minorities, are as critical to their future as the Republicans are finding they are to the future of their party. “The bus tour is the iconic symbol of the Tea Party,” Russo said. “When we’ve gone to some states, like Texas, we’ve had good Hispanic participation. We’re trying to do a [national] bus tour that would be more directed that way.” “We want to try to get our email communication and our website in Spanish,” Russo said. “The Tea Party movement has been successful using social media – emails, Twitter, Facebook. That’s how people found out about us. We have to communicate directly”
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WHY IS TEXAS SILENT ABOUT IMMIGRATION REFORM?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

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Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Republicans have been relatively silent on the renewed push to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. Despite the state’s nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants and 1,200-mile long border with Mexico, Perry and the Texas legislature have kept mum on the issue. They’re not resurrecting dozens of contentious immigration bills that roiled the statehouse in 2011. They’re not making the rounds on TV and radio to talk about President Barack Obama’s plan for legalizing immigrants. They’re not even saying the word “immigration.”

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When Perry delivered his State of the State recently — his first since his failed presidential run — glaringly absent in the 37-minute speech was any mention of the issue at all. The silence speaks to the sudden political shift in immigration since last fall’s presidential election, in which Hispanics voted Democratic by a nearly 3-to-1 margin and created a powerful incentive for Republicans to change their approach to this growing ethnic group.
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But in Texas, the party has been left speechless in the Capitol. Only two years ago in his State of the State address, Perry called for punishing “sanctuary cities” that bar police officers from asking detainees about their immigration status. There’s no talk of such measures now.
“You want an answer? That tried and that failed,” said Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri. “Responsible leadership is now focusing on things that have a chance to get passed.”
Immigration isn’t an easy subject to ignore in Texas, though. About 16 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the United States live in the state, according to a Department of Homeland Security report in 2012, and immigration leaves an outsize footprint on the state’s infrastructure.

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So red-hot was immigration for Texas Republicans in the last legislative session that state Rep. Debbie Riddle camped outside the clerk’s office to make sure her bills targeting undocumented immigrants were filed first. About 50 bills related to immigration were filed in all. This time, Riddle, who once famously warned of immigrant mothers in the U.S. giving birth to “terror babies” who would grow up to attack the country as unsuspecting citizens, has not submitted any immigration proposals.
“Establishment Republicans are trying to brand a different message,” said Maria Martinez, executive director of the Immigration and Reform Coalition of Texas that backed “sanctuary city” proposals in 2011.

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IMMIGRATION REFORM AND BORDER SECURITY

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

The effort in Washington to pass immigration reform is headed for a potential showdown over border security – with the Senate and White House plans putting different emphasis on the issue, and Democrats and Republicans appearing to disagree over the extent of the problem.

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The likely conflict was highlighted earlier this week when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared U.S. borders secure and said Republicans have a flawed argument about border security needing to precede comprehensive immigration reform.

“I believe the border is secure,” Napolitano said Monday in San Diego, during a three-day swing of the Southwest border. “I believe the border’s a safe border (but) that’s not to say everything is 100 percent.”

She said the Republicans have failed to recognize yearly improvements in contraband seizures and the number of people caught trying to cross the border illegal. They also think border security is unrelated to interior immigration enforcement such as visa tracking and employment verification and the pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States, Napolitano also said.

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

While the plan by President Obama, who has made immigration reform a second-term priority, includes tighter border security, the plan by a bipartisan Senate panel is contingent on securing the borders. Still, both sides agree that border security has improved since the Bush administration.

Roughly 365,000 people attempted to cross U.S. borders illegally in fiscal 2012 — a nearly 50 percent drop since fiscal 2008 and 78 percent drop from its peak in fiscal 2000, according to a Feb. 1 report by the U.S. Border Patrol, which based the findings on apprehensions. Borders agents also seized more than 4.2 million pounds of narcotics and $100 million in unreported currency over that period, the report states.

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AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite

However, Republicans on the eight-member Senate panel, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, says more needs to be done. “There remain several areas, particularly in Arizona, where people’s homes are being invaded, where drug smugglers are crossing property every night,” he said last month in a statement. “But there is no question there has been a significant reduction in illegal crossings over the past five years.” Still, the situation is far from perfect.

Chris Crane, president for the union for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, told a House committee Tuesday that agency morale is sagging in part because the country is allowing illegal immigrants to stay.

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“Agents cannot make arrests because of overstayed visa,” Crane said. “It’s not illegal anymore. … The agency is falling apart, morale is at an all-time low.”

The Senate plan calls for improving border security through more agents, improved technology such as unmanned drones and the better use of existing resources. The National Guard in December purportedly agreed to a one-year extension with the Department of Homeland Security to patrol the Southwest border. Roughly 1,200 Guardsmen began patrolling the region with Board Patrol and U.S. Customs agents in 2010, but their ranks have been trimmed to about 300 and their role is now largely to support the roughly 18,000 U.S. Border agents in the region – including more aerial observations.

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Despite Napolitano arguing that Republicans have missed the point about border security being tied to visa tracking and employment verification, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another Republican on the Senate panel, publicly made the connection weeks earlier. Rubio told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that his goal is to ensure border security is part of the reform plan because “if not the workplace enforcement, the visa tracking … don’t happen.”

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“Then we are going to be right back here again in five to 10 years with another three, four, five million people who are undocumented,” he said.

The Senate plan includes a component to evaluate the Southwest border – a commission composed of governors, attorneys general and community leaders from that region to monitor security progress and make recommendations. However, the weight of their findings and to what extent border security is included in the potential-but-likely legislation remains unclear.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to have to discuss,” Rubio told Hewitt. “That’s part of turning a principle into a bill, into a law. … It’s important that we have input from the people that are affected by the border, because it’s one thing to say that the border is certified from, you know, an air conditioned office in Washington. Another thing is to have to deal with it on the ground as a law enforcement person.

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THIS WEEK: ARE LATINOS CON ROMNEY OR OBAMA?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

While President Obama enjoys a wide lead among Latino voters across the country, Mitt Romney has made some headway with Latinos in swing states, according to this week’s tracking poll by Latino Decisions for impreMedia. The poll showed that 33 percent of Hispanic voters in ten battleground states were “certain” or “thinking about” voting for Romney, a slight gain from prior weeks for the Republican candidate.
Still, the same poll found that President Obama had his strongest week to date with those surveyed. Fifty one percent of Latino voters in ten battleground states said they trust Obama more than his opponent to handle the economy, compared to 27 percent who said they trusted Romney and Republicans more.

Nationally, 72 percent of voters favor Obama on the economy, and more than 20 percent favor Romney — a significant increase from just four weeks ago when 59 percent favored Obama and 30 percent favored Romney. Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan have campaigned on a promise of economic recovery in the Hispanic community, where the unemployment rate sits at 11 percent, three full points higher than the national average. Despite the GOP‘s focus on their economic message, Latino voters are siding with Obama nationally when it comes to the issue.
Furthermore, Romney lacks strong “core support” from respondents in the Latino community,” according to Latino Decisions. Just 10 percent of those surveyed said they had a “very favorable” opinion of Romney, while 55 percent of those surveyed had a “very favorable” opinion of Obama.
The Latino Decisions pollsters in part attribute Obama’s gain this week to Romney’s recent ’47 percent’ comments. “Romney’s infamous comments about the ’47 percent’ are clearly hurting him among Latinos,” Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions said. “He appears out of touch with the average working class family.” Latinos will play a key role in the election, as a growing population in key swing states, many pollsters argue. However, questions remain about just how many of these voters will turn up to the polls on election day.

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SHOULD LATINOS BE REPUBLICAN?

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Mitt Romney‘s presidential chances are caught between the agenda of the conservative Tea Party wing and the demands of the Latino electorate which is increasingly alienated by The Republican Party’s stance on immigration, writes the ABC’s Michael Brissenden. Among the bowls full of unguarded truth spoken by Mitt Romney at that now infamous $50,000-a-plate dinner in Florida is a glaring recognition of a significant threat to the long-term survival of the Republican Party. Don’t worry about all the bon mots that will be reheated from that night and put into play for this election cycle, Mitt Romney might be caviar-coated toast but even he recognizes that his party has a structural problem which if not addressed soon could keep them out of the White House forever.
Since that video was aired much of the media discussion has focused on Mitt Romney’s declaration that it wasn’t his job to worry about the 47 per cent of voters who don’t pay tax and who believe they are victims with an overblown sense of entitlement to government support. But not much has been said about that other percentage of voter that neither he nor his republican Republican stable mates appear to be worrying about at this stage – Latinos. This is despite the fact that Mitt Romney himself acknowledges the growing increasing political significance of the US’s fastest-growing demographic.

As the waiters (who may or may not have been Latino but were likely in the 47 per cent bracket referred to) looked on, Mitt told the gathering of wealthy donors that his father was born in Mexico but that unfortunately he had been born of American parents who just happened to be living in Mexico. If, however, he had been born of Mexican parents then he said, “I’d have a better shot of winning this … I say that jokingly, but it’d be helpful if they’d been Latino.”

And he knows it would be helpful because the Latino vote is becoming so important. Many Republicans admit it’s the reason why some of the swing states like Nevada and Colorado are no longer looking as much like swing states: because Latinos there, and all across the country, are overwhelmingly voting for the Democrats.

Even Florida has shifted – a state that because of the older generation of Cuban immigrants had been solidly posting broad Latino support for the Republican Party. Now the younger generation of Cubans are voting for the Democrats and the new influx of Latinos from elsewhere in Latin America are voting that way too.

What next? Texas? It was Ronald Reagan who famously said “Latinos are Republican. They just don’t know it yet.” way back the 1980s. He also granted a partial amnesty for illegal immigrants during his term, a position that at the moment is a world away from the sort of immigration policy that is championed by a party increasingly influenced by Tea Party wing.

To win the nomination Romney has had to bend ever further to their agenda. He denounced the Dream Act (a bill Bill that would give conditional permanent residency to those brought to this country by their parents when they were children). He supported Arizona’s controversial tough law (SB 1070) that allows police to check a person’s immigration status at will. He also declared that ‘self deportation’ was the best way of dealing with undocumented immigrants.Romney says what the country US needs is a permanent fix to problems posed by and faced by the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the country but he has so far been vague on what that permanent fix might be.

IN THIS VIDEO ARE CLIPS OF BOTH PRESIDENT OBAMA AND MITT ROMNEY BEING INTERVIEWED ON IMMIGRATION

As the Reagan quote suggests Latinos should be natural Republicans. Most are conservative, Catholic and entrepreneurial, they are here in the US because they believe in the transformational potential of the American dream, but almost every one of them has a relative, or knows someone who has a relative, who is in the country illegally. Immigration policy is a big deal in the Latino community and most sensible republicans Republicans know it. Many Republicans say privately that this is the last time they’ll be able to go to an election with their current immigration platform. They accept that they it is time to stop using terms such as “illegal aliens” and instead start talking about “opportunity”. Supporting the Dream Act is the first step.

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