Hispanics and the GOP: Time for a serious seat at the table

Hispanics and the GOP: Time for a serious seat at the table

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WASHINGTON, November 28, 2013 — Winning the Hispanic vote in the 2016 presidential election won’t be easy. Serious candidates — Republican, Democrat or Independent — will have to address the Hispanic community’s number one issue, comprehensive immigration reform.

The Hispanic community won’t be content with talk about immigration reform; it needs action. A good start would be a bill to secure the borders. It also needs to be included in the policy discussion. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a Wall Street Journal CEO Council Meeting that he won a large percentage of Hispanic votes by giving Hispanic groups a serious seat at the table.

A serious role in setting the policy discussion has been denied the Hispanic community so far. Democratic candidates pay scant attention to Hispanics aside from demonizing Republicans as anti-immigrant. The Republican Party expends little effort to mobilize Hispanic votes or even to acknowledge them.

A serious role involves more than just low-level campaign positions. It means a seat at the candidate’s table with the candidate’s ear, doing more to reach Hispanic voters than to check the grammar of Spanish campaign ads. It demands active engagement from the candidate, such as walking into Hispanic communities and addressing issues such as immigration reform, education and the economy.

This is especially important for Republican candidates. Any Republican presidential candidate in 2016 will have to address the Hispanic community without seeming anti-immigrant, as Governor Mitt Romney did in 2012. Hispanic voters were the margin of loss for Romney’s campaign.

Among the potential GOP contenders for 2016 are Governor Chris Christie, Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Paul Ryan. Each is making efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters. Christie recently won 50 percent of the Hispanic vote in his campaign for reelection. Ryan is reaching out to Representative Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Rubio led efforts in the Senate to create a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The Wall Street Journal CEO Council Task Force Priorities says that in order for the U.S. to stay competitive it needs a comprehensive immigration reform. The economy cannot be fixed just with government spending. Immigrants have an important role to play. Immigrants whose skills add value to the U.S. economy should be encouraged to come and to stay. Those who are willing to work can help make this country richer and stronger. Inviting Hispanic leaders to the table can help make that happen. It isn’t just politics.

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