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December 15, 2015

Immigration issue separates GOP from many Latino voters


As Republican presidential candidates square off in Las Vegas Tuesday night, the issue of immigration continues to divide voters and poses a significant problem for the Republican Party.

Experts project Latinos and other minorities will make up more than half the population by 2065.

Currently Latinos vote for Democrats at a rate of 2-1 over Republicans, according to national polls.

Given the group’s overwhelming support for Barack Obama in the last election, Republicans now recognize the need to increase their appeal among Latino voters. In a Republican National Committee report after the 2012 election, the party acknowledged the need to better connect with Latino voters.

Daniel Garza leads the LIBRE Initiative, the largest conservative Latino political group in the country, and recently received $16 million from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers to find ways to convince Latino voters that conservative ideals can match their own.

Himself the son of a migrant family of farm workers, Garza said the values of Latinos and Republicans align more than many people realize.

“So, for example, we believe strongly in self-reliance, in personal responsibility, in that hard work ethic, the American rugged individualism,” Garza said.

The LIBRE Initiative uses a variety of methods to reach Latino voters. The group produces videos, holds talks and even hosts driver’s education and English-language classes as a way to bring in potential conservative converts.

Still, many Latino voters say they will not vote for a candidate they disagree with on immigration, even if they like everything else about them. Even Garza admits that the stance of some Republican candidates on immigration makes the party a tougher sell for his target audience.


Latino — in the U.S., a person of Latin American origin or descent

Hispanic — a Spanish-speaking person

immigration reform – a term used in political discussions regarding changes or improvements to current immigration policy of a country

Warm up questions
  1. What is the percentage of Latinos currently living in the United States?
  2. What are some reasons why Republican presidential candidates hope to gain more support amongst Latino voters?
  3. How might some Republican presidential candidates’ harsh choice of language around immigration hurt their chances of garnering more of the Latino vote?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why are some Republicans, including the billionaire Koch brothers, hoping to attract conservative Latino voters to their party’s base?
  2. Do you think Daniel Garza’s rags-to-riches story will resonate and compel more Latinos to join the Republican Party? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think it is ethical for groups like the Libre Initiative to use events like driver’s education or tax courses as a way to spread their political message to potential Latino voters? Explain.
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