Posted on January 14, 2016

The GOP Response to the State of the Union Sounded Pretty Different in Spanish

Dara Lind, VOX, January 13, 2016

The most controversial part of the Republican response to the State of the Union on Tuesday night, delivered by Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, was cut out of the version delivered in Spanish by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.

It wasn’t dropped because it was controversial. It was dropped because it wouldn’t have been.

Haley’s speech was, in large part, an insistence that the Republican Party could and should be a party that values integration and unity and rejects divisive populist rhetoric. It was widely understood that this was an implicit rebuke of her party’s current frontrunner for the presidential nomination, Donald Trump, and Haley is already being criticized by Trump sympathizers within the conservative movement for the swipe.

Because Haley’s speech was so conciliatory, Diaz-Balart didn’t need to overhaul it to appeal to Latinos who might be more skeptical of Republicans than the average viewer in English. But Diaz-Balart went beyond rebuking Trump. He simply pretended he didn’t exist–and heavily implied that a Republican president would pass immigration reform.


Most of Diaz-Balart’s speech was more or less identical to Haley’s. There were a few differences in wording for the purpose of rhetorical flow, and a few tweaks that might have been designed to make the speech more palatable to the relatively liberal Latino electorate. A derisive reference to “Washington bureaucrats and union bosses,” for example, was replaced by a reference to “bureaucrats in Washington and other cities.”


Haley went out of her way to embrace the idea of immigration, talking about her own immigrant story and saying, “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.” But like many politicians, she made sure that she balanced the “nation of immigrants” against the “rule of law”:

At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.

We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.

That is . . . not exactly how Diaz-Balart put it:

At the same time, it’s obvious that our immigration system needs to be reformed. The current system puts our national security in danger and is an obstacle to our economy.

It’s essential that we find a legislative solution that protects our nation, defends our borders, offers a permanent and humane solution to those who live in the shadows, respects the rule of law, modernizes our visa system, and boosts the economy. I have no doubt that if we work together we can make this happen, and continue to be loyal to the noblest legacies of the United States.

A legislative solution that includes border security, reforms to legal immigrant visas, and a “permanent and humane solution” for unauthorized immigrants? That sounds a lot like comprehensive immigration reform, which Diaz-Balart is one of the few remaining congressional Republicans interested in working on.