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CTnow

GOP's pitch to Latinos needs a lot of work

By Sandra Hernandez

6:11 PM EDT, September 16, 2013

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It’s that time of year again when Republicans, who are eager to reach out to Latinos, put together a video honoring Latinos' many contributions to this country, all the while remaining silent on some of the issues that matter most to an increasingly influential segment of the electorate.

This year’s bilingual GOP video starts with a few words from House Speaker John A. Boehner of  Ohio, followed by Florida Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and others who praise Latinos' hard work and devotion to family and country.

And as The Times’ Lisa Mascaro notes in her story Monday, GOP leaders will also host a policy discussion at the Capitol on issues that are important to Latino voters as part of their outreach to a growing, and increasingly influential, sector of the electorate.

No doubt Republican leaders will argue that the discussion will focus on the broad range of issues that matter to Latinos, including the economy and education, not just immigration. While it is true that Latinos, like all voters, are concerned about a host of issues -- from jobs to schools and public safety -- they also worry about issues that affect their community more than others.

Immigration turns out to be one of those issues, along with healthcare. And that’s where the GOP’s outreach strategy may go awry.

A 2012 Pew Hispanic Center survey, for example, found that among registered Latino voters, 22% said they personally knew someone who had been deported or detained by the federal government for immigration reasons in the last year.

And then there is the GOP anti-reform wing of the party, which manages to both obstruct efforts to fix the nation’s broken immigration system and offend Latinos. For example, who can forget Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) comments this year about some young immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally and who "have calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert"?

And surely Republicans' repeated efforts to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act won’t win them many Latino fans. The president’s healthcare law is very popular with Latinos, and for good reason: As The Times’ reported in March, surveys show that nearly 30% of Latino citizens and green-card holders lack health insurance. That is far higher than other groups.

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