by Glenn Evans
Hispanic Texans will remain a growing Democratic voting bloc if Republicans keep wrapping inflammatory words around issues important to both Latinos and Republicans, a GOP state representative said Wednesday in Longview.
“Hispanics are Republicans — they just don’t know it yet,” Dallas Republican Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas told the Republican Women of Gregg County during a luncheon. “That’s absolutely true. What Hispanics want is the ability to have an opportunity. They want the same thing our forefathers had.”
One of the few Latino Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives, Villalba is traveling Texas telling party members not to squander a natural affiliation with a largely conservative, religious, family-oriented community.
“In the last five to 10 years … there’s been some white-hot rhetoric,” he said, citing party members who call illegal immigrants, “illegals” and say they bring disease into America. “Hispanics sit back, and they hear these words. … And they just turn off.”
That phenomenon he described was in evidence on recent news reports showing sign-toting, red-faced conservatives blocking government-chartered buses carrying children and families to California from Texas’ border with Mexico.
The 13-term lawmaker is reaching out to his own party because Latino voters will comprise a plurality here, meaning they will be the largest distinct population, within six years.
In 19 years, he added, Hispanics will be the majority population, comprising more than half of all Texans.
“And these are not folks that are here illegally,” Villalba said. “These are folks that were born here. These folks, today, vote disproportionately for the Democrats. That is troubling to me. If Texas flips and turns (pro-Democrat) blue, what that means is there will not be enough electors in the state (electoral college) to elect a Republican president.”
Immigration reform, abortion, small business support and other issues near and dear to Republicans and many Hispanics should bring the two groups closer, he said.
“So, we’ve got to start talking about these issues in a way that is more sensitive,” he said. “This is not about being politically correct. This is about talking to folks, winning their votes.”
He got that right, the Gregg County Democratic chairman said. James Cogar expressed doubt the GOP can follow Villalba’s advice.
“When these same voters watch gun-toting, screaming activists yelling at these little children to go home, it is hard for them to feel drawn to the GOP,” Cogar said. “The Republicans’ actions speak much louder than any perceived cultural similarity they think they may share (with Hispanics).”
Villalba and other party members blame the border surge on President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order barring deportation of young illegal immigrants brought by parents. According to news reports, drug cartels are twisting Obama’s action into the false hope launching thousands of children to journey here from Central America.
Villalba disagreed, though, that the surge was Obama’s goal, a position Gov. Rick Perry implied in a recent interview but shied from when pressed.
“I do not believe this is a conspiracy of the Obama administration,” Villalba said. “I believe firmly this is a result of his unconstitutional action (in 2012). I don’t think the conspiracy talk affects whether or not Hispanics believe the Republican party is the right home for them.”