A host of House Republicans, including party leaders and Hispanic representatives, appeared in a video commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month on Monday, where they praised the contributions Hispanics have made to the United States and highlighted their "deep commitment to faith, family and community". But that video conspicuously left out any mention of immigration reform, an issue which has highlighted the racial and ideological lines along which the two parties are drawn. And their launching of a sweeping Hispanic outreach campaign - including new staff members and a flood of efforts to engage the Spanish-language media - appears to indicate that the House GOP might be betting it can win over Hispanics without straying from its Tea Party grassroots.
Along with a policy discussion about issues of importance to Latinos, to be held in the Capitol on Thursday, Republicans in the lower chamber have hired new staff members and launched a Spanish-only website and a Twitter account aimed at Latinos in order to bolster outreach efforts among that demographic. Under consideration are Spanish-language press releases, the establishment of ties with Spanish-language media and English-language media for Latinos, and meetings with Latino leaders at conferences and events across the nation. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, told Fox News that the outreach campaign was part of a "recognition that we, as Republicans, did not do as well as we hoped in the 2012 elections with a number of groups - with young people, with women, and with Hispanics" and that Hispanics are "a growing media market, a demographic in the country."
Some immigrant advocates accuse the GOP of cosmetic changes. "The video is perhaps the latest effort to satisfy this year's Republican National Committee (RNC) directive to make the Party friendlier to immigrants, Latinos, and minorities," said a statement from America's Voice, the nation's largest immigrant advocacy group. "But apparently, Republican leaders didn't read the part that says they have to actually 'embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,' not just smile for the camera."
McMorris Rodgers says the policy discussion on Thursday will address immigration reform as well as unemployment and government spending. But many House Republicans' vision of immigration reform bears little resemblance to that sponsored by Democrats or even Republicans in the Senate, with questionable House GOP support for legalizing measures even for "DREAMers", or young undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents as children. Many of them say that despite the efforts of a broad coalition of interest groups, they aren't feeling pressure from their constituents. A look at the racial breakdown of Congressional districts might speak volumes: of the 232 districts represented by Republicans, the average Hispanic share of each district is 11 percent (compared to 23 percent of Democratic districts). 142 Republican districts are less than 10 percent Hispanic.