Two participants in a panel on immigration at CPAC today expressed confidence in their closing statements that Hispanic immigrants will be a source of future votes for the Republican party. “Latino voters are the Reagan Democrats of today,” said Alfonso Aguilar, the executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. “I believe that the majority of them can actually be members of CPAC in the future,” concurred the Reverend Luis Cortés Jr.
The panel was supposed to answer the question: “Can there be meaningful immigration reform without citizenship?”
Derrick Morgan, vice president of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation, was the only one of four panelists to basically reject the premise of the question, saying that he wasn’t the best person to say whether legalization should include a path to citizenship since he didn’t think that Republicans should be pursuing a policy of comprehensive immigration reform at all right now: “I respectfully disagree with the policy of legalization with or without citizenship,” he said, instead favoring a piecemeal approach, beginning with enforcement. He noted that the current laws are not being enforced so “why would you trust this current administration” to implement a deal?
Aguilar vehemently disagreed: “Conservatives need to address immigration, and they need to do it now,” he said, adding that “our conservative base wants us to lead and legislate” on the issue. Alfonso said that in addition to immigrants doing the “jobs that Americans don’t want,” immigration “creates good-paying jobs for working-class Americans.”
Reverend Cortés declared that “immigration is the only policy matter where God agrees with God,” by which he meant, he explained, that all religious communities supported immigration reform — “even the Baha’i.”
The reverend warned that the Hispanic community is becoming alienated by Republican rhetoric on the issue, much like “African Americans left the party of Lincoln due partly to rhetoric around civil rights.” “The Hispanic community is about less government, it is afraid of big government,” he added.
At one point, Reverend Cortés took issue with Morgan’s use of the word “amnesty.” “If you look it up in the dictionary it means forgiveness at no cost,” he said, and it would not apply “if someone comes forward” and has to “do recompense” as he said Republicans are proposing to require of immigrants currently here illegally.
The fourth panelist, Helen Krieble of the Krieble Foundation, advocated for a large guest-worker program, and pushed for her organization’s “Red Card” solution.