In Republican sales pitch to Latinx community, GOP chairwoman says immigration is not a concern

"At this house party I had with quite a few Hispanic individuals, they did not bring up immigration."

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The topic of immigration isn’t important to win over Latinx support for Republicans, a GOP official said Saturday, because she had a recent gathering with people of Latinx origin who did not want to talk about it.

When asked by a Fox News host how the Republican National Committee and the Trump administration hope “to bring the Hispanic community” into the Republican fold, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said she spoke with Latinx guests at her house party in Miami on Friday who were concerned with tax reform and education.

Apparently no one brought up immigration.

“Simply put, what is the message that you, the RNC, the Trump administration are delivering to the Hispanic community in hopes of bringing them on board,” a Fox host said. McDaniel initially said that “people from the Hispanic community,” who came to her house party, praised President Donald Trump’s tax cuts. She also explained that the Republican party has been doing outreach to Puerto Ricans who now live in Florida because of last year’s hurricane.   

Fox host Griff Jenkins then referenced a USA Today/ Suffolk University poll which found that the top concerns affecting Americans’ decisions in the upcoming midterm elections were immigration/border security (12 percent) and gun control/Second Amendment (12 percent). The poll was taken between February 20 and February 24.

“What’s the RNC’s sales pitch to Latino voters when it comes to this issue of immigration?” Jenkins asked McDaniel. 

“It is interesting that yesterday at this house party I had with quite a few Hispanic individuals, they did not bring up immigration,” McDaniel responded. “They talked about tax reform. They talked about school choice. Some of them benefited from charter schools.”

Watch the exchange:

McDaniel’s account of her conversation with Latinx partygoers may hew true to the preferences of the Latinx demographics in Miami and its surrounding areas. Miami is 70 percent Latinx, with Cuban Americans making up 54 percent of the city’s population. Florida is home to seven-in-ten of the nation’s two million Cuban-origin Latinx,  Pew Research’s Fact Tank blog pointed out. And indeed, Cuban Americans in Florida — who have long leaned toward the Republican party — were twice as likely as non-Cuban Latinx to vote for Trump in 2016, according to National Election Pool exit poll data.

But McDaniel’s view — which adds a layer of the tension Republicans face on immigration — also presents a very myopic extrapolation of whether the RNC should invest in Latinx outreach generally. Immigration is of topline importance beyond the Cuban American community, particularly with other Latinx populations that the president has alienated in unflattering terms. Notably, Mexicans are seen as rapists and drug dealers; Salvadorans are seen as coming from a “shithole country.”

It’s clear that Latinx may not all like the president. Trump has signed off on a number of executive orders allowing federal agents to relentlessly pursue all undocumented immigrants, regardless of any positive equities like community contributions, whether these individuals have U.S.-born children, or whether they are the primary caretaker of certain family members. Nearly 33.7 million Latinx of Mexican origin live in the United States, two-thirds of whom are born in the United States and may be able to vote. About 6 million are undocumented. As of 2013, approximately 5.1 million U.S.-born children live with at least one undocumented parent, according to the Center for Migration Studies. These include children who may be able to exercise their right to vote in 2018, but have felt the effects of enforcement operations on their parents.

The GOP chairwoman is not the only Republican official who chooses to portray the issue of immigration as irrelevant. Her party often releases ads in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month by leaving out any mention of immigration.