Rep. Lamar Smith: Hispanics like law and order, too
Our nation’s Hispanic population is growing, and it’s growing fast. According to the 2010 Census, the Hispanic population rose to 50.5 million and grew 43 percent over the past decade. Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States and account for most of its population growth over the past 10 years.
Some pundits and political operatives — mostly Democrats — have already announced the demise of the Republican Party. They point to the growth of the Hispanic community and assert that the GOP needs to embrace amnesty for illegal immigrants to attract Hispanic voters.
But in the 1986 election, after a Republican president signed into law the largest amnesty for illegal immigrants in American history, only 23 percent of Hispanics voted for Republican candidates.
More recently, a November 2009 Zogby poll found that 82 percent of likely Hispanic voters strongly or somewhat support reducing the illegal immigrant population over time by enforcing existing immigration laws, such as requiring employers to verify the legal status of workers and increasing border enforcement.
Exit polls reported by CNN reveal that 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates in 2010, significantly more than in 2006 (30 percent) and 2008 (29 percent). And this level of Hispanic support for Republican candidates came despite widespread pre-election claims by advocates for illegal immigration that a pro-rule-of-law stand would alienate Hispanic voters.
But the most interesting outcome from the 2010 November elections is the increase of Hispanics in the Republican Party. Voters elected Susana Martinez governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval governor of Nevada and Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate from Florida. All are Republicans.
And these Hispanic candidates come from states with large and growing Hispanic populations. According to 2010 census data, states with the largest Hispanic share of total population include New Mexico (46 percent), Texas (38 percent), California (38 percent), Arizona (30 percent), Nevada (27 percent) and Florida (23 percent).
Voters also elected five pro-enforcement Hispanic Republicans to the House of Representatives: Bill Flores and Francisco Canseco of Texas, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Raul Labrador of Idaho and David Rivera of Florida.
How did Republican candidates appeal to Hispanic voters? They focused on the fundamental values of patriotism, rule of law, freedom, family, support for small businesses, jobs and education.
The pro-enforcement movement is not anti-Hispanic; it is pro-rule-of-law. Time and again, American voters — including Hispanics — have defeated amnesty attempts, including the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Contrary to the claims made by some, the record shows that Republicans will continue to attract Hispanic voters, and more Republican Hispanic candidates will be elected to public office. Perhaps that’s what really worries some of the critics.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.