Gary Scharrer, San Antonio Express-News, June 13, 2010
Texas Republicans adopted another get-tough policy on immigration and bilingual education Saturday that some say will make it hard for the party to attract Hispanic voters at a time when the Texas population is turning increasingly Latino.
The platform encourages state lawmakers to create a Class A misdemeanor criminal offense “for an illegal alien to intentionally or knowingly be within the State of Texas,” and to “oppose amnesty in any form leading to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
Texas Republicans also want to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a U.S. citizen “with no exceptions.” The platform calls for the end of day-labor work centers and emphasizes border security, encouraging “all means . . (to) immediately prevent illegal aliens.”
The party’s education platform calls for the end of federally sponsored pre-kindergarten, and opposes any mandatory pre-kindergarten or kindergarten.
Bilingual education should end after the third year, according to the platform, and non-U.S. citizens should not be eligible for state or federal college financial assistance.
Hispanics will make up 78 percent of Texas’ population growth over the next 30 years, compared with only 4 percent for whites, according to demographic projections.
Minority children already make up 66 percent of the state’s 4.8 million public school enrollment–and Hispanics could surpass whites in the state’s overall population by 2015, estimates show.
Not one of the state’s 181 legislators is a Hispanic Republican.
“The figures are irrefutable. I am extremely concerned,” longtime Republican advertising executive and political consultant Lionel Sosa said of his party’s future.
Need to reach out
It’s imperative for Republicans to reach out to Hispanic voters, said GOP campaign consultant and pollster Whit Ayres, president of the American Association of political consultants.
“If Republicans don’t do better among Hispanic voters, we are not going to be talking about how we get Florida back in a presidential election,” said Ayres, of Alexandria, Va. “We’re going to be talking about how we keep from losing Texas.”
Houston GOP delegate Stuart Mayper said he’s concerned about the party’s relationship with Latino voters.
“We must reach out to these people. If we don’t, it’s a big mistake,” he said.
Work visas suggested
The immigration problem can be solved by issuing enough work visas to fill jobs that U.S. citizens don’t want, said Sosa, who has worked for seven GOP presidential campaigns, starting with Ronald Reagan’s in 1980.
‘Disconnect’ with Latinos
MALC leader Martinez Fischer believes the GOP’s “disconnect” with Latinos is beyond problematic.
“It’s a plague. Republicans have been afflicted with this illness since the 1860s,” he said. “The only difference is their target. Back then it was the Irish and Catholics, today it’s Latinos who are largely Catholic–I see a pattern here.”