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November 23rd, 2011
12:17 PM ET

Opinion: Debate revealed Republicans' path to Latino vote

Editor’s note: Fernando Espuelas is the host and managing editor of the national talk show "Fernando Espuelas" on Univision Radio. He is also a political analyst on television, print and online. Espuelas is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

By Fernando Espuelas, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In the GOP debates, it has been hard to watch as the candidates repeatedly tried to out-do each other in “quien es mas macho” when it comes to maltreating undocumented immigrants.

How refreshing, then, to hear former Speaker Newt Gingrich in the latest CNN debate get off the GOP rhetoric hate-train and speak to real solutions to real problems in our nation's broken immigration system.

Gingrich made a distinction between American families that may include undocumented people and people with no real ties to our society. He supports the Dream Act – one of the most American of ideas, the concept that innocent kids should not be held responsible for the actions of their parents, that they should be given the opportunity to serve our country as they earn their path to citizenship. Gingrich recognizes the humanity and moral import of never splitting up families – a family-centric value system that the Republican candidates loudly tout but seem ever-ready to toss when it comes to the “illegals.”

Hearing the inheritors of the party of Lincoln characterize immigrants as “illegals,” along with the dehumanizing rhetoric that passes for a policy discussion, denigrates everyone on that debate stage. It's pathetic to see the descendants of immigrants bashing people who have come to this country for refuge - economic and political - just as their own families did years before. Of course, the candidates say that their ancestors came to the United States “legally.” If only they could visit their local library and learn a little bit about American history. Anybody without a visible disease could legally enter the United States until the early part of the 20th century - literally without papers.

To be clear, there is no illegal immigration lobby in America. Most people, including immigrants like me, see the 11 million undocumented people as the result of two factors.

First, there’s America's insatiable appetite for low-wage workers. Second, there’s the failure of other countries, principally Mexico, to reform their economies so that they are creating enough opportunities for their own citizens to thrive, thereby not effectively forcing them to emigrate to the United States in order to survive.

There is no question, though, that if Gingrich captures the nomination, he will face an uphill battle to capture the vote of Latinos, already alienated from the GOP by anti-Latino laws in Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina, among others. To hear him speak about undocumented immigrants as people – not "illegals" - was a refreshing break from the toxic rhetoric that had thus far dominated the Republican nominating process.

Even if the former speaker does not directly benefit from his common-sense view of immigration, he will have illuminated a path for future Republican candidates to be viable choices for the fast-growing American Latino electorate.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Fernando Espuelas.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. SEC

    About espuelas...Worth to read…This is greatest ponzi scheme of all time!!!

    December 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Marie

    I am an American of Hispanic descent. I am absolutely livid that people seem to believe that just because one is of Hispanic descent that they automatically embrace illegal aliens and will vote as a common bloc to whoever panders enough to us to "keep families together!".

    There are people in Rwanda, people in Haiti, people in Russia who want to come here and attempt the American Dream. But b/c their country doesn't share a common border, they are forced to wait their turn and come legally. They deserve to be here more than someone who snuck across a border.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lib

    Jose, wake up! It's the GOP who have not done anything to enforce immigration laws. President Obama has deported more mexicans than any other president. It's the GOP who don't care since they can get free or minimum labor.

    November 26, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. David Barron

    How lucky for the American employer who desires cheap labor, that there's no big ocean between the Latin America's and the USA. And, how unlucky, for the US, and some of those bright minds living over-seas, that a big ocean lies between them, and the land of opportunity.

    Mr Espuelas, my hats-off to you, for achieving membership as a Henry Crown Fellow. I admire him as an industrialist, and his commitment to honor, integrity, and philanthropy. I certainly try to live each day, with the same virtues, and volunteering in place of philanthropy.

    November 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • SEC

      David, Espuelas industrialist?
      read this
      Worth to read…This is greatest ponzi scheme of all time!!!

      December 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JOSE0311USMC

    I'M A LATINO--GOP DON'T SELL OUT TO THE HISPANIC PEOPLE LIKE DEMOCRATS HAVE DONE...DEMOCRATS ARE REFUSING TO ENFORCE THE IMMIGRATION LAWS TO PLEASE THE HISPANIC VOTERS. GOP DON'T DO THAT.. I'M VOTING GOP BECAUSE I WANT SOMEONE WHO WILL ENFORCE THE IMMIGRATION LAWS...NOT ALL MEXICANS ARE HISPANICS.. NOT ALL HISPANICS VOTE DEMOCRAT.

    November 24, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |