The RNC Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month By Ignoring Immigration Reform

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOSH REYNOLDS
Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOSH REYNOLDS

To mark the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released a statement indicating that it would launch community events across the country for Republicans to “listen to the concerns of Latino voters.” But the statement made no mention about immigration, a topic that some GOP presidential candidates have inelegantly used to alienate Latinos and immigrants.

“Throughout this month, the RNC will shine a spotlight on how Hispanic Americans have influenced our party,” Chairman Reince Priebus said in the statement. “Our theme for this year is ‘Honoring our Latino Leaders,’ and we will highlight exemplary Hispanic Republican elected officials, from the U.S. Congress to governors’ mansions to state houses… As always, it’s an opportunity for new voters to hear from us and more importantly, for Republicans to listen to the concerns of Latino voters.”

The RNC will host 25 events in eight states, including Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, the Associated Press reported. The community events will be based on location, like addressing Puerto Rico’s financial crisis and statehood questions in South Florida because of the number of Puerto Ricans who live in that area, or focus on taxes and the economy in Pennsylvania, according to the publication. Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 through October 15.

Failing to address immigration as part of the “concerns of Latino voters” may feel a bit disingenuous given that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is generating controversy over his comments about Mexican immigrants and a proposed immigration policy to deport the country’s undocumented population. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has similarly hit a snag with Latino voters after telling people to “chill out” over his use of the slur “anchor babies,” to characterize the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, other GOP candidates are focused on stripping birthright citizenship from U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.

The fact is that immigration is personal to Latinos. A June 2014 poll found that 62 percent of Latino voters surveyed personally know an undocumented immigrant. A MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll released Monday found that more than eight in ten Latinos believe that birthright citizenship should remain in place so that children born in this country can receive American citizenship, regardless of the immigration status of their parents. The same poll found that a majority of Latinos think that the “anchor baby” descriptor is “insulting.”

The RNC released a 2012 autopsy report after then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lost, finding that Republicans should abandon its party’s anti-immigrant stance and instead “embrace and champion immigration reform.” But the tone-deaf Hispanic Heritage Month statement is pretty much aligned with the kind of “Latino outreach” that the RNC has done since the 2012 report. In June, Priebus bristled at Trump’s suggestion that Mexican immigrants were rapists and drug dealers, stating that the comments were “probably something that is not helpful.” Last year, the RNC omitted immigration in its statement. And on the heels of a Senate-approved comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, House Republican members produced a video that mentioned immigration exactly zero times.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) focused its Hispanic Heritage Month statement on chiding the anti-immigrant rhetoric espoused by Republican candidates, advising GOP lawmakers to “take some time over the next month to learn and appreciate the rich heritage of Hispanic Americans.”