GOP Seeks to "Woo" the Hispanic Electorate

By Jossie Flor Sapunar on 08/29/2012 @ 03:30 PM

Previous Republican presidential candidate John McCain with LULAC National President Margaret Moran at the 2008 LULAC Convention.

As the GOP Convention continues to gain momentum, the Hispanic community has its ears perked high. We have indeed noticed that the Republican Party is trying to appeal to Latinos—just check out their list of speakers for the RNC.

On the first day of the convention, Reverend Sammy Rodriguez of the Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference gave the closing benediction. Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño is speaking for three days, and so is his wife, Lucé Vela. Senate Republican candidate Ted Cruz (who we blogged about before) and Puerto Rican Zoraida Fonalledas are addressing attendees today while Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico will speak tomorrow. In addition, Senator Marco Rubio will provide remarks on Thursday before Mitt Romney formally accepts the GOP nomination for president.

Oh, they’ve got our attention.

The arsenal of elected Latino officials is a clear message to the Hispanic electorate: the GOP is Latino-friendly. LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes, however, believes that Republicans will have a hard time winning over the Hispanic electorate when the party has embraced policies that voters perceive as punitive.

He pointed to the platform the party will ratify today. It calls for the federal government to complete a fence along the border with Mexico; would deny federal funds to state universities that allow illegal immigrants to pay the discounted in-state tuition; and requires all U.S. businesses to use the government’s E-Verify program that checks for immigration status.

President Obama with LULAC National President Margaret Moran at the 2008 LULAC Convention.

In addition, the platform puts the party on record as opposing “any forms of amnesty” for illegal immigrants, instead endorsing “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily,” also known as self-deportation.

It’s a hardline approach, Wilkes said, that makes it hard for Hispanics to embrace the GOP. And, he said, it’s a departure from past platforms and the attitude of President George W. Bush, who tried to seek immigration reforms and was rewarded at the polls. Bush, he said, received an estimated 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, while Sen. John McCain garnered only 31 percent in 2008.

Wilkes said that Romney “doesn’t have a right to ask for Latino votes with policies” like those in GOP platform.

The other option for voters would be Obama and the Democratic Party. Even with President Obama’s recent executive action for childhood arrivals, there is disappointment that he did not deliver on the immigration reform promises he made to voters in 2008.

Latinos will just have to decide which party’s candidates best satisfy their individual needs when they vote in November.

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