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Can GOP Outreach to Latinos be Successful?

This past November, many pundits were saying that the GOP could be successful with Latinos because of the success it had in running Latino candidates. In Florida, Cuban-American Marco Rubio was elected, and his name has even been tossed around as a potential VP candidate in 2012. In two key western states, Latino Republicans were elected governors in New Mexico and in Nevada. And a handful of Latinos were elected to Congress. However, many newly empowered GOP congressional representatives have expressed a desire to dig in their heels on the one issue that makes even Latinos within the GOP pause—immigration.

For instance, the next chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Representative Peter King, wants to expand the program that gives local law enforcement the ability to act as immigration authorities. And the new head of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Lamar Smith, who opposes birthright citizenship, wants to expand workplace enforcement and the use of E-verify. Representative Steve King has talked about building a border fence that not even a cockroach would be able to get through.

While those who spout the heated rhetoric have been rising in the House leadership, then-candidate Marco Rubio has tried to moderate his tone a bit by telling Univision back in October that he preferred the “undocumented” to “illegal” when addressing the immigration issue. And of course, many hope that the presence of the newly elected Latino GOPers in the House will follow Rubio’s lead.

A national poll by Latino Decisions showed that 71% of Latinos contacted voted Democrat, while 29% voted Republican. This really isn’t surprising given the rhetoric, but the Latino vote will continue to be up for grabs even with those who compare undocumented immigrants to insects or those who want to continue to beef up border enforcement. Really, the GOP only needs a slice of the Latino electorate to be competitive in many districts, and with the redistricting likely to favor southern states (typically GOP-leaning states), they will be in a position to divide and conquer accordingly.

My thought is that GOP Latino outreach can be moderately successful. They don’t have to capture the “whole enchilada,” but they do need to win over those voters who may find a Marco Rubio or a Bill Flores attractive. And immigration isn’t the biggest issue for many Latinos who were born here or who have been in the country for generations.

However, if GOP leaders like Peter King and Steve King who have the loudest bark on issues like immigration continue to receive the most attention, party-building in the long term may become problematic for the Republican Party.

By guest contributor, Adriana Maestas of

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Hola BL,

    Thanks for posting, but can you embed that video that is linked? I think it would be more powerful for people to see what this Congressman was saying without having to leave your blog site. I can send you the embed code again.



  2. Pablo_B says:

    Although you may be right in stating that most Latinos who were born here do not hold immigration as a top issue, I think they’re still sympathetic to it and they should. First, because most all of us are a product of immigration, whether our parents immigrated here, or grandfather or even before. Secondly, the conservative right has made this not only an issue of documentation and illegality, they have made this a matter of race, hence Arizona. A lot of these new anti-immigration initiatives have a racial component to it. Now I’m not the type of person who slips the race card lightly, I have to do it, but in this context, I think the entire Latino community should be unite in this issue, not only because it matters to a high percentage of our community but also because we can use this very single issue to unify the entire community politically speaking, which will make DC take a much closer look to us and the rest of the issues that affects our community. If we stay divided politically then we will always remain a minority, not matter how much bigger we become in numbers.

  3. Jesus Suarez says:

    GOOD Reply Pablo B!!!

  4. k. Cedano says:

    I second Jesus’ comment!

  5. Jesus Suarez says:

    I am Cuban-American and I have voted Democrat for the last 18 years of my life. As of the last 8 years of my life I have been making efforts to get involved with the Democratic Party here in Florida but I have found it to be nothing short of frustrating and at times I have been out right insulted.

    I am seeing a Pattern which makes me perceive that Both the Republican and the the Democratic Parties are purposely trying to polarize the Latino Communities here in the U.S. in order to benefit their own political gains. We the Latinos in the U.S. are swallowing their strategy Hook, Line and SINKER….with an emphasis on SINKER!!!

    If we don’t get together with a consensus about these Issues we will have to pay the price for the next 20 years and that price may just be way too high to be able to pay.

    Think about it.

    I’m remembering in history a time when Jews had a small momentum of political power in Germany and then Hitler came along.

    Pay attention People I’m in no way being an alarmist.

    Hitlers Concentration Camps didn’t just pop up overnight like mushrooms. They had many years of preparation beforehand in a pattern much like is being witnessed here in today’s America. It’s true that perhaps the Jewish people had a different history than we Latinos do and they didn’t have a Nation to go back to then per say…Hence Millions of them ended up in the concentration camps. But what about economical disparity and the enslavement that causes? Isn’t that like being in a concentration camp…all be it in a seemingly more benign form…or perhaps more treacherous?

    I thank you Adriana for this post and I sincerely do Hope that we will have more and More of these discussions in this year 2011. Only in meeting each other can we Unite, which is what I dream of. Our Future and the Future of this Country and the world depends upon it.

  6. k. Cedano says:

    Seriously Jesus, you should consider blogging for BL. You are pretty much usually spot on and your POV makes people think..

  7. Jesus Suarez says:

    I may just Take you up on that…I wonder what I would be allowed to write about??

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