Last night, the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) honored House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) with a leadership achievement award for his contributions to the Hispanic community. However, Roll Call reports that “nobody — including Pence — can seem to figure out why.”
According to CHLI executive director Octavio Hinojosa, Pence is being recognized for his “collective leadership,” “willingness to work on comprehensive immigration reform,” and for talking with Republican lawmakers “about the need to engage folks on the other side of the aisle” on issues that are important to Latinos. However, a look at Pence’s record raises more questions than it answers about CHLI’s decision to honor Pence:
– In 2006, while Pence was introducing a “no amnesty immigration reform” plan in the House, CHLI was hosting a congressional briefing that “united” pro-immigration reform advocates in support of a moderate Senate bill containing a path to legalization.
– Pence told Roll Call yesterday that he has not been reaching out to Democrats to craft a bipartisan immigration reform plan in 2010 and still does not support creating a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants. CHLI Chairman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), meanwhile, has said he believes “that any legislation Congress considers should be comprehensive in nature” and stressed the need to “create a system to ensure that foreign workers seeking employment in the U.S. are appropriately authorized to work.”
– In recent weeks, Diaz-Balart has been an outspoken critic of Arizona’s new immigration law, SB-1070. Pence, meanwhile, has defended Arizona’s actions, stating “we can’t blame Arizonans for trying to reaffirm the rule of law.” Sixty-seven percent of Latinos oppose SB-1070.
– While 74 percent of Latino registered voters were “very supportive” of including a public option in health care reform, Pence told Hispanics that they can “expect that Republicans will be united in opposition to a government takeover of healthcare.”
– Pence told Roll Call that CHLI might be honoring him because he helped provide the first-ever Spanish-language GOP response to the State of the Union. Ironically, in 2007, Pence felt the need to co-sponsor legislation declaring English as the official language of the U.S.
In a November 2009 interview with Newt Gingrich’s online publication, “The Americano,” Pence stated that “Republicans didn’t work hard enough in the past to reach out to Hispanic Americans.” According to Pence, “that’s changing.”