Republicans Run Risk of Losing Latino Voter Gains By Targeting Asylum
Adrian Carrasquillo, Newsweek, January 25, 2023
A bill put forward by Republican Representative Chip Roy of Texas that proposed changing how asylum claims are handled is raising concerns among other Republicans, who fear that their party could lose new hard-won support from Hispanic voters by going too far on immigration.
The bill, which proposed barring 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 who represents the largest stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, took to Fox News last week to argue against it.
“I’m particularly concerned with this Border Safety and Security Act,” he said.
Essentially, what it does is it bans asylum—all asylum—to include legitimate asylum. I’m very concerned with that.”
Although in its current form the bill is dead, more immigration bills are sure to follow, after Speaker Kevin McCarthy made a pledge to recalcitrant members to bring a border security bill to the floor in exchange for their votes to make him Speaker of the House.
Some longtime Republicans and Latino campaign experts who have helped bring Hispanic voters into the Republican fold fear that although efforts to undo asylum protections might play well to a portion of the conservative base, they also could erode the party’s gains in the Latino community.
“The language was way too broad and could have resulted in the asylum system being shut down,” Abraham Enriquez, the founder of Bienvenido US and a speaker at CPAC Texas, told Newsweek. “Republicans are making gains with Latino voters. Now is not the time for a bill that shuts down the asylum system.”
A Los Angeles Times poll in December found that 62% of Hispanics support continuing asylum, 17% oppose it, and 21% aren’t sure.
Bienvenido US did electoral work on behalf of candidates in Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Florida to the tune of nearly $2 million during the 2022 election.
Enriquez said Republicans must understand that the media narrative goes beyond the Fox News echo chamber, and includes the influence of Spanish-language TV network giants.
“Hispanics do favor an all-of-the-above approach on immigration, which means they’re pro-border security and pro-immigrant, not anti-immigrant asking for an anti-asylum bill,” he said. “It would lead to Telemundo and Univision saying Republicans were pushing an anti-asylum bill.”
These Republicans noted that Bush also had a high-water mark with Hispanics in 2004, one that the party erased with the rise of right-wing voices on immigration like Tom Tancredo, who once advocated for abolishing both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and ran for governor of Colorado unsuccessfully three times from 2010 to 2018.
But Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign and transition team official, told Newsweek that “nobody’s rhetoric with respect to immigration was harsher than Donald Trump,” and he still made gains with Hispanics.