Republicans risk losing Latino voter gains by targeting asylum

A bill by Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas proposing to change how asylum applications are handled is raising concern among fellow Republicans, who fear their party could lose new hard-won support from Hispanic voters if they immigrate goes far.

The bill, which would bar all undocumented immigrants from entering the country, was seen as an attack on an asylum process that has been a hallmark of American immigration policy for 75 years.

Republican Representative Tony Gonzales of Texas, the lawmaker representing most of the US-Mexico border, reached out to Fox News last week to argue against it.

“I’m particularly concerned about this border security law,” he said.
Essentially, it bans asylum – all asylum – to include legitimate asylum. I’m very worried about that.”

“About a year ago there were these three little girls that the cartels abandoned in one of these fields outside of Eagle Pass,” he explained. “If this bill becomes law, what are you going to do with these little girls? Just throw them over the other side of the fence? I don’t think that’s the American way.”

Tony Gonzalez
Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas arrives with other representatives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on November 13, 2020.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Though the law is dead in its current form, more immigration legislation is sure to follow after Speaker Kevin McCarthy promised recalcitrant Members that he would introduce a border security bill in exchange for their votes to make him Speaker of the House.

Some longtime Republicans and Latino campaign pundits who helped bring Hispanic voters into the Republican herd fear that while efforts to lift asylum protections are going down well for some of the conservative base, so are the party’s gains in the mainstream could undermine the Latino community.

“The language was far too broad and could have resulted in the closure of the asylum system,” said Abraham Enriquez, founder of Bienvenido US and spokesman for CPAC Texas news week. “Republicans are winning with Latino voters. Now is not the time for legislation shutting down the asylum system.”

A Los Angeles Times poll in December found that 62% of Hispanics support the continuation of the asylum process, 17% oppose it, and 21% are unsure.

Bienvenido US did nearly $2 million in campaign work on behalf of candidates in Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Florida during the 2022 election.

Enriquez said Republicans must understand that the media narrative goes beyond the Fox News echo chamber to include the influence of the Spanish-language television network’s giants.

“Hispanics prefer an all-inclusive approach to immigration, which means they are pro-border security and pro-immigrant, not anti-immigrant demanding an anti-asylum law,” he said. “It would lead to Telemundo and Univision saying Republicans would push an anti-asylum bill.”

Mario Lopez, a presidential candidate under George W. Bush who was also appointed to the US Senate Republican Task Force on Hispanic Affairs by former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, said news week the Republican approach of the House of Representatives is a mistake.

“The idea that you can keep doubling and tripling pointless immigration policies and Latinos are okay with hating immigrants?” he asked rhetorically. “I don’t think it will pay out the rewards that some delusional people think it will.”

These Republicans noted that Bush also had a peak with Hispanics in 2004, one that the party extinguished with the rise of right-wing pro-immigration voices like Tom Tancredo, who once advocated abolishing both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and ran unsuccessfully for governor of Colorado three times from 2010 to 2018.

But Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign and transition team official, told it news week that “nobody’s rhetoric on immigration was tougher than Donald Trump,” and he was still making strides with Hispanics.

“I don’t know if I’m buying [that] Stephen Miller’s and Tancredo’s messages immerse us in the community,” he said, noting that under Trump, immigration was about jobs, which was more of a winning message. “It became an economic message instead of a social message.”

Still, Republicans opposed to the move to chop away asylum in the U.S. believe that House Republican bills like Roy’s will not curb illegal immigration, but will actually increase it because migrants genuinely fearing for their lives will find their way there anyway to compete in the United States.

“If Chip Roy and other Republicans are frustrated with illegal immigration, just wait for it to skyrocket when they abolish asylum,” Lopez said. “This is just a recipe for more illegal immigration and totally counterproductive to what they say they want.”

Enriquez said his views are shaped by spending a lot of time in Mexico and having the opportunity to see families heading to the border.

“If someone is fleeing lawful persecution and needs lawful asylum, they will find a way to cross our border,” he added. “These bills will increase the illegal crossing of families seeking asylum and finding another way to get to America.”

It’s not just other Republicans who are watching what the majority of the House of Representatives is doing.

Vanessa Cardenas, executive director of America’s Voice, an organization that advocates for immigration, said the Republican Party is also aiming to expand legal routes into the country, citing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit against the Biden government on Tuesday.

The lawsuit follows a move announced in December that would allow 360,000 people a year from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua to immigrate if they apply to the program from their home countries, pass background checks and show proof of financial support in the United States .

“Based on what we’ve seen from last year through this year, Republicans are committed to ending migration in all its forms, even legal migration,” Cardenas said, “which shows us just how much the extremists are… GOP captured.”

Cardenas launched an impeachment charge against Republicans over immigration that they had long leveled against Democrats, arguing that her party was not interested in solutions to the issue, only in scourging Democrats.

“They use migration as a strategy to stir up their base,” she said.

https://www.newsweek.com/republicans-run-risk-losing-latino-voter-gains-targeting-asylum-1776586 Republicans risk losing Latino voter gains by targeting asylum

Rick Schindler

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