Today, the South Florida Sun Sentinel posted an interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. In the interview, Gingrich was asked several times about what he thinks Latinos care about. Each time, Gingrich provided an array of answers from the Pope, to abortion, to the economy. However, not once did Gingrich cite immigration as an important issue in the Latino community:
HOST: Is it a hard sell given the rancor over immigration…a number of Republicans have taken a hardline on immigration. Is it a hard sell?
GINGRICH: I would start and say if you are a Hispanic who is interested in a job and a paycheck rather than unemployment and food stamps, there’s no reason to look at Harry Reid. […] I would like to appeal to every Hispanic American on the basic interests of their family, their values and their concerns. […]
HOST: Besides the economics what else are the key issues that you’ve identified in the center right group that appeal to Hispanics?
GINGRICH: We just did a movie about called Nine Days That Changed the world about Pope John Paul II. […] In most of their community that movie would be very well received because the community is actually very religiously faithful. If you look at the values of the Hispanic community they are much more conservative than the values that Harry Reid has been voting for.
HOST: So what are some of the issues besides the faith stuff?
GINGRICH: You talk about strong family values, you talk about right to life. There are a number of issues where the Hispanic community finds itself much more compatible…you talk about the importance of work and education. Those are all very important values in the Hispanic community.
According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, Latinos rank education, jobs, and health care (which Gingrich also failed to mention) as the three most important issues. Immigration is ranked fourth. And though immigration certainly isn’t the most important issue, it’s often a deal breaker when it comes time to vote. According to a poll by Latino Decisions, immigration is the second-most important issue Latino voters look at when deciding who to vote for, after the economy.
It’s no wonder Gingrich avoided mentioning immigration as an issue that attracts Latinos to the “center-right.” An overwhelming majority of Latinos support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legalization and oppose state and local immigration initiatives like Arizona’s immigration law. Meanwhile, there is not a single Republican in currently Congress who has been willing to sign on to immigration reform, while the GOP has largely been behind Arizona-copycat efforts. That’s probably a main reason why, when asked which party has more concern for Latinos, 47 percent of Latino registered voters identify the Democratic Party as the better party and only 6 percent see the Republican Party.
Gingrich did mention immigration in a response to a separate question later in the interview on what he hopes to get done at an upcoming conference he’s hosting. “I think we do have to find an answer on immigration,” said Gingrich. Though he didn’t provide any specifics, in the past, he has proposed sending 12 million undocumented immigrants back to their home countries and allowing them to return on temporary guest worker visas.