¡Somos Republicans!—the country's self-proclaimed largest Latino Republican group—endorsed New Gingrich today, saying that the candidate "has been working hard for many years to include American Hispanics in the overall conversation for a better America." The group also lamented Jon Huntsman's departure from the race and criticized Mitt Romney's "non-humanitarian approach" to immigration reform.
While I never quite understand groups that support a party that is actively antagonistic to their key interests (see GOProud, the Log Cabin Republicans), Gingrich is indeed the best of the lot when it comes to immigration reform. Whereas the two lead candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, oppose anything other than stricter enforcement of immigration laws, Gingrich has come out in support of certain provisions of the DREAM Act; has proposed offering undocumented immigrants with deep ties to their community a path to citizenship; and recognized that much of the immigration problem is administrative. The candidate says that he wants to revamp the visa program: "A huge element of this reform will be to dedicate the necessary resources to eliminate inefficiencies for all visa processing at our consular facilities," his website says.
When pressed by hard-nosed opponents of immigration reform, Gingrich stresses that his proposals don't amount to "amnesty," but otherwise, little difference exists between his approach and Barack Obama's—except that the president wants to pass an omnibus immigration bill, while Gingrich wants to enact reform piecemeal (and Obama doesn't limit the "path to citizenship" just to those with long-standing ties to their communities).
Before I get criticized for equating Latino interests with immigration, I'd like to say that while I agree that Latinos also care about education and the economy, immigration touches the Latino community in a way it doesn't touch other voting groups. It's not just a policy issue; one poll or another—depending on how prevalent the issue is in the current political discussion—will have Latinos ranking immigration above or below other issues, but Latinos consistently say that much of the immigration debate is driven by racism. Whether or not you have a family member or friend trapped in the byzantine immigration system, if you think a candidate—or a party—is driven by ill will toward a group you belong to, that's likely to weigh against him pretty heavily.
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