FAIR Legislative Update, August 16, 2010
Reid Openly Questions How Hispanics Can Be in GOP
Speaking to Hispanic supporters last week in his home state of Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) openly questioned why Hispanics would be Republicans. “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK?” Reid said. “Do I need to say more?” (Politico, Aug. 11, 2010). The next day, Senator Reid’s office stood by the statement and used the opportunity to go after his opponent in the November election, Sharon Angle, accusing her of having an “extreme and dangerous agenda for Hispanic Nevadans.” (Politico, Aug. 11, 2010). Id.) Reid then sought to shore up his credentials with Hispanics by pointing to Republicans as the reason amnesty legislation did not pass, even though many Democrats continue to oppose such legislation. His campaign spokesman said: “Despite the efforts of Republicans like Sharron Angle to change the U.S. Constitution and block comprehensive immigration reform,” a campaign spokesman said, “Sen. Reid will continue to wake up and fight every day for the interests of Hispanic Nevadans.” (Id.)
Republicans reacted sharply to the Senate Majority Leader’s statement. Sharon Angle, Reid’s opponent in the November election, told reporters that “Harry Reid cannot give any good reasons why people should vote for him, so now he is turning to race and ethnicity.” (Politico, Aug. 11, 2010). Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate for Florida’s Senate seat and the son of Cuban immigrants called Reid’s comments “outrageous” and “ridiculous.” (Politico, Aug. 11, 2010). Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, also objected to Reid’s statement, calling them “extremely condescending and are insulting to all Latinos.” Aguilar said, “Hispanic voters don’t have a ‘herd mentality. They have shown that their vote cannot be taken for granted by any party and that they will support candidates who will defend the principles they believe in. . . .” (Id.)
To many observers, Reid’s claim that Hispanics could only rightfully belong to the Democratic Party is further proof of the growing politicization of the immigration debate. In April, when Senator Reid was suffering in state polls, he announced to Hispanic supporters that he would bring up amnesty legislation immediately after the Easter recess. Reid quickly backtracked when he realized many of his Democratic colleagues were not on board with his promise, and there has been little movement on amnesty legislation since. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, Apr. 19, 2010). As a result, Democratic leadership is coming under increasing pressure from powerful pro-amnesty forces within the Hispanic community who have run out of patience when it comes to passing “comprehensive” immigration reform. (Politico, Aug. 11, 2010). How Democrats will juggle competing interests between pro-enforcement and pro-amnesty constituencies as the election nears remains to be seen.