Posted on March 1, 2023

Latino Republicans Push Back on Party’s Immigration Agenda

Associated Press, February 28, 2023

More than half of the residents in the slice of Miami that includes Little Havana were born abroad. And when Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar ran for reelection last year, she won by 15 percentage points.

The GOP’s dominance of Florida’s 27th congressional district is emblematic of the party’s inroads with Latino voters in recent years in much of the U.S. and especially in Florida. Those gains helped Gov. Ron DeSantis decisively win reelection last year and contributed to the GOP taking back control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

That strong showing, however, is leading to some tension as the newly emboldened Republicans in Washington aim to launch an aggressive agenda, particularly around immigration policy. Salazar is among a handful of Republicans pushing back against a sweeping proposal being considered in the House that would restrict asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We understand that immigrants want to come and live in the promised land,” Salazar said in a recent interview. {snip}

Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, a Mexican American Republican whose district covers a long portion of the U.S-Mexico border from El Paso to San Antonio, has been even bolder, calling the legislation “anti-immigrant.”

The dissent highlights a challenge for the GOP. The party’s future may well depend on broadening its appeal beyond an aging, predominantly white base of support. And while some conservative Latinos support hard-line immigration policies, there’s a risk that the GOP could repel other persuadable Latinos by moving too far to the right on the issue.


For Republicans, Donald Trump, the former president who is again seeking the White House, may have given the party something of a path on how to navigate the politics of immigration. During his previous campaigns and while he was in office, Trump embraced a crackdown on asylum rules. But he also spoke of toughening border security and building a wall. None of his actions cost him Latino support during his two elections.

“Many conservatives felt emboldened by Trump’s performance, by the idea that a Republican could be both anti-immigrant and win Latino voters,” said Geraldo Cadava, a professor of history and Latino studies at Northwestern University {snip}

The immigration bill introduced by Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, would require U.S. officials to automatically ban or detain asylum seekers while their claims are being considered. Right now, asylum seekers can be released with notices to appear in court and fight for asylum. The bill would also allow U.S. immigration officials to ban all migrants from entering if there is no “operational control” at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Roy sent a letter to his GOP colleagues last week asking them to back the bill. In an interview, he said he found it “absurd” for Gonzales and Salazar to question the bill.