Last week, the Partnership for a New American Economy announced the Conservative & Hispanic Leaders for Immigration Reform Coalition comprised of prominent Hispanic leaders. Like all Americans, conservative Hispanics need to be united in calling for legislation that finds solutions to fix the broken system. That is why leaders such as Al Cardenas (former chairman of the American Conservative Union), Secretary Rosario Marin (41st Treasurer of the United States) and Alfonso Aguilar (American Principles in Action Latino Partnership) joined efforts with us to renew interest in passing common-sense immigration reform as soon as possible.
We know that the immigration system has been broken for quite some time, and that the issue is ripe for a solution. Studies show reform is good for America, it’s good for our economy and it is good for families. Congress must make fixing our system a top priority, because meaningful reform can only happen through legislative action. Hispanic voters are paying close attention to this issue, and that should not go unnoticed by members of Congress.
America’s immigrant voters are increasingly becoming a larger part of our nation’s electorate. Although immigrant citizens have at times been portrayed as adhering to liberal values, we know that like all Hispanics, immigrant citizens are not monolithic and possess values across the political spectrum. Conservatives should not overlook these newly minted voters and understand the common ground they share on many important issues.
Of the immigrant citizens in the U.S. who are eligible to vote, 50 percent do not identify with either major political party. And immigrants who do identify with a party often identify less strongly with their party of choice than American-born voters.
Religious values among immigrants also provide a common ground on which to connect with this group. In the last several years, the number of Hispanic immigrants who identify as Evangelical or born-again Christians has surged. Young immigrants are also increasingly religious with forty-one percent of immigrants age 18 to 29 ranking religion as “very important” to their lives, compared to only 32 percent of native-born Americans.
The midterm election proved Republicans who properly engaged and included the Latino community directly into their messaging gained support among Latino voters, and we believe candidates who do the same with new immigrant voters will be rewarded as well. Still, it must be said, many have turned away from the Republican Party in recent years due to the charged rhetoric and perceived hostility surrounding the issue of immigration. By enacting immigration reform, Republicans cannot only boost the economy, but also neutralize an issue that is currently alienating foreign-born Americans.
In a time when naturalized citizens make up 8.1 percent of the eligible voting age population, and 4.2 million newly naturalized Hispanics and Asians are projected to become eligible voters by 2020, conservatives cannot take immigrant voters for granted. By focusing on their shared common ground of conservative values and the principles of economic freedom, Republicans can close gaps with this key constituency and boost their party’s supporters in future elections. Passing meaningful immigration reform is not only right for the country economically, but it makes good political sense for conservatives as well.
The Conservative & Economic Hispanic Leaders for Immigration Reform was launched as part of PNAE’s Hispanic Engagement Campaign. It serves as a critical effort in coalescing conservative Hispanics who are calling for market-based, sensible reform with a strong, loud voice, a voice that will only get louder in 2016.
• Hector Barreto is Chairman of The Latino Coalition and the former U.S. Small Business Administrator.
• Daniel Garza is the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative.
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