Latino GOP group: Steve King leading on immigration would kill the party’s 2012 chances

November 11, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Somos Republicans, a Latino group from the Southwest, wrote an open letter to the future House GOP leadership on Tuesday asking it to reconsider putting Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in charge of the House subcommittee on immigration and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) in charge of the House Judiciary Committee.

The group argues that King and Smith’s anti-illegal immigration rhetoric and policy ideas, which include a proposal to end birthright citizenship for the American-born children of illegal immigrants, would alienate Latino voters and ruin the Republican party’s chances of defeating President Obama in 2012.

DeeDee Blase, the Somos Repubicans founder, explains:

Though it is constitutionally impossible that a mere Congressional “statute” will decide who gets to be a citizen, we believe that this insensitive and constant assailment on our Hispanic Community may push Hispanics further into the Independent, Libertarian or Democrat Party. Moreover, Hispanic voters were crucial in electing seven new Republican Hispanics to Congress and two new Republican Hispanic governors. However, Hispanics also vehemently and strongly rejected those Republicans that utilized harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and opted for a Democrat, as it occurred in the West Coast, Colorado and Nevada.

It is our sincere belief that if representatives Smith and King were to become the Chairs of the House Judiciary and Subcommittee on Immigration, and if they indeed continue such insensitive rhetoric towards Hispanics, the conditions for a Republican presidential candidate to garner the necessary Electoral College Delegates to win the 2012 presidency will not be possible. Most of those states with the highest number of Electoral College delegates reside in highly populated Hispanic states such as California, Texas, Florida and New York.

It’s tough to pin down exactly what determines Latino voting patterns — given, of course, that Latinos aren’t a unified voting bloc. But polls indicate some broad trends among Latino voters, such as general support for immigration reform and opposition to immigration crackdowns like Arizona’s SB 1070.

More specifically, nearly 80 percent of Latino voters said they opposed changes to the Constitution to alter birthright citizenship laws, according to a Pew Hispanic Center survey released Oct. 28. Another 18 percent of Latinos overall said they supported changes to birthright citizenship. The number was slightly higher among Latino Republicans, 23 percent of whom said they supported changes to the 14th Amendment.

Beyond Latino voters, there is a near certainty that an effort to change birthright citizenship requirements would fail in the Senate or, at the very least, would be vetoed by Obama. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has expressed opposition to the idea.

Even if it were to pass, some Republicans have said ending birthright citizenship would hurt the GOP. After the 14th Amendment became a hot topic in the Senate in early August, two Bush administration officials called the idea of changing the amendment “offensive” and said doing so would harm the party’s legacy and turn off minorities.