This past weekend at the Texas Republican state convention, delegates voted to include a provision in the state party’s platform advocating for a state immigration law similar to Arizona’s SB-1070. The move bucked Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who previously stated that such a law “would not be the right direction for Texas.” An overwhelming majority of Latino voters oppose the Arizona law and believe it will lead to racial profiling, but the newly named chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Steve Munisteri, still prioritizes reaching out to the “burgeoning Hispanic community.” As part of that effort, the Texas GOP launched a YouTube campaign yesterday to attract more Latinos to the party.
Despite the fact that the new Texas Republican Party platform also proposes “making American English the official language of Texas and the United States,” the first video of their Latino recruitment campaign is entirely in Spanish. It doesn’t touch on the immigration issue, but it does feature a series of Latinos listing reasons why they are Republican. A belief in “the right to liberty and freedom,” “equality,” and the “American Dream,” are among the justifications listed. The video even features immigration attorney Ivan Andarza, a Rick Perry supporter whose Twitter feed might also suggest that he is also opposed to the Arizona law.
Eric Garza, vice chairman of the Latino National Republican Coalition in Texas, says he does not believe “immigration issues” will sink the party’s Hispanic recruiting efforts. “I think the Hispanic community is going to realize that Governor Perry and the Republican Party really do have the answers to securing our borders and taking care of our immigration policy, at least here in the state of Texas,” says Garza. According to Garza, Latinos are more concerned with other issues like jobs and the economy anyway.
However, while Latinos care about a lot of issues other than immigration, an anti-immigrant platform is often all it takes to turn a large number of Latinos off from a candidate. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “conservative Hispanic voters, in particular, say they feel betrayed by Republican Party leaders who have supported the law.” Massey Villarreal, a Houston businessman and past national chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, told the Wall Street Journal, “[i]t’s insulting to have Republican leaders across the country applauding this racist law. I’m sure this is going to hurt the Republican Party.” In fact, it already has. In 2008, Latinos basically “jumped ship” and overwhelmingly supported Democrats shortly following the highly polarized immigration debate of 2007.
While most Latinos believe in the ideals mentioned in the Texas GOP video, the majority also think that police crackdowns on undocumented immigrants pose a direct threat to those liberties and that the Arizona law goes too far. The Houston Chronicle has pointed out that Latinos will make up 78 percent of Texas’ population growth over the next 30 years.