When Barack Obama took office in January of 2009, there was not a single Hispanic Republican in the US Senate. The consolation prize for professional panderers, after Mitt Romney’s dismal showing among Hispanics in 2012, is that there will be two Hispanic Republican Senators when Barack Obama takes his second oath of office in 2013: Marco Rubio who was elected in Florida in 2010, and Ted Cruz, who was elected in Texas in 2012.
In many respects, Rubio and Cruz are both very similar. Both are white Cubans. Looking at pictures of them, you would not be sure they were Hispanic—especially in Cruz’s case: his mother is of Irish and Italian ancestry, and he has a non-Hispanic wife. Both assert that their parents fled Castro’s Cuba, but only Cruz appears to be telling the truth. Both of them won Tea Party-backed primaries against Establishment GOP candidates, so there will be the usual fantasy coming from Conservatism Inc. about how this proves Hispanics support conservatives (as opposed to proving that whites like to vote for conservative Hispanics). Both are attorneys, though Cruz, a magna cum laude graduate of law school, law review editor at Harvard and a Supreme Court clerk, has a much more impressive resume.
These similarities and differences aside, the important question is whether Cruz will follow Rubio’s lead in promoting a GOP amnesty. During the campaign, Cruz ran on a tough-on-immigration platform, speaking out forcefully against Obama’s Administrative Amnesty, and he gave a perfect immigration patriot response to Numbers USA’s questions—including those about birthright citizenship and reducing legal immigration.
Immediately after his victory Cruz was asked about the GOP’s dismal performance with Hispanics. He spouted a lot of the usual platitudes about Hispanics being “fundamentally conservative” how politicians on both sides have been “demagoguing” the issue that Republicans need a positive “tone” on immigration. When asked about Rubio’s DREAM Act he did respond: "I don't think the answer to our immigration problems is amnesty.” But he also spoke about generically changing the tone on immigration and supporting “legal immigration.” [Ted Cruz sounds off on Hispanic vote after historic Senate win, CBS, November 7, 2012]
On November 29, Cruz gave a much-noticed speech at the America’s Principles Project’s Red White and Blue Gala. . One of this group’s main projects is the “The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles” whose dual mission is “to garner greater Latino support for conservative causes and candidates, and at the same time, to encourage the conservative movement to support Latino conservative groups, leaders, and candidates, as well as policies that are welcoming of Latino immigrants.” These “policies that are welcoming of Latino immigrants” include “the state level for conservative-led reforms such as the 2011 guest worker program passed in Utah,” which was actually a state-level amnesty. The project is led by Alfonso Aguilar who has been one of the leading “conservative Hispanic” amnesty advocates.
However, I’m not one for guilt by association, so after that digression, I will focus on Cruz’s remarks.
Cruz told the crowd that he is “something that is not supposed to exist: a Hispanic Republican.” Actually, no-one is surprised by half-Cuban half Irish/Italian Republicans. What is much rarer: lower class Mexicans and other Mesoamericans, who make up the vast majority of the Hispanic immigrant population, becoming Republicans.
Cruz asked: “Do you want to know why Barack Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote?” and answered “The tone of immigration contributed, but I think far more important was ’47 percent.’”
To his credit, Cruz said the way to win Hispanics is not, “as the media would suggest,” to support amnesty. The Daily Caller summarized his position:
Cruz encouraged Republicans to maintain their strong stance on border security and stopping illegal immigration, but said they must be very welcoming of legal immigration.
Additionally Cruz reportedly said it is important that the Republican Party shows that they like Hispanics, because nobody “is going to vote for you if they believe you don’t like them.”
[Cruz: I’m ‘something that is not supposed to exist: a Hispanic Republican, by Caroline May, November 29, 2012]
What should we make of all these comments? In both cases, Cruz spoke about the GOP changing its “tone” on immigration, but he failed to say who exactly in the GOP is promoting a harsh tone on immigration.
Similarly, Cruz does not elaborate on what he means by being more welcoming for legal immigration. Does that mean he is already abandoning his pledge to Numbers USA to reduce legal immigration by 75%?
As I have stated before, every single Republican who gives lip-service to cracking down on illegal immigration qualifies their support by emphasizing how much they love Hispanics and legal immigration. Even during the Republican primaries, when Mitt Romney made those supposedly nasty comments about illegal immigration, he in fact simultaneously called for increasing legal immigration and the most controversial thing he said was “self-deport”—which Cruz supposedly supports.
Cruz is probably right that Hispanics are turned off by the 47% comment—but he doesn’t acknowledge that the reason is that they are overwhelmingly part of the 47%.
Does this mean Cruz is going to be immigration patriots’ adversary in Congress? My view: Absolutely not.
Of course, I wish the top priority for immigration patriots in the next congress could be passing an immigration moratorium and ending birthright citizenship. But with Harry Reid running the Senate, GOP House Leader John Boehner supporting amnesty, and Barack Obama in the White House, the top priority is defensive: stopping amnesty.
(Which is not to say that immigration patriots in Congress shouldn’t go on the offensive on these issues to force them into the 2014 and 2016 elections.)
Still, while most Congressional Republicans are flip-flopping on amnesty, Cruz seems to be standing firm.
Assuming Cruz stays firm, you can expect him to become the go-to guy for conservatives seeking to oppose Rubio’s campaign for amnesty.
Needless to say, it is unfortunate that many Republicans and conservatives seem to feel they need token Hispanics to validate their opposition to illegal immigration. In the long run, this attitude must change.
But for now, having a leading conservative Hispanic speaking out against amnesty will be invaluable.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.