Texas Republican Party’s Shift on Immigration

By DrVMDS on June 15, 2012

This post originally appeared on NBCLatino.

It’s not fun being a Democrat in Texas.  Since 1998 every state level office has been held by a Republican and in 2010 the Republican majority in the legislature became a super majority.  The one consolation Texas Democrats have goes something like this, “we may be locked out for now, but just wait until the demographic growth of the Latino community translates into eligible voters then the tide will turn!”  Sadly for Lone-Star Democrats it seems that Republicans have also begun to read the demographic handwriting on the wall and through a softened approach to immigration seek to make Texas Democrats extinct.

Earlier this month at the Texas Republican convention a new immigration plank was approved, the Texas Solution.  This solution is not too surprising – more secure borders, penalties for employers who hire undocumented persons, opposition to sanctuary cities.  Within this plank is also the Tea Party favored ban on birthright citizenship.  The bulk of the Texas Solution is in line with the tenor of the larger Republican’s view on immigration.  However, a twist to this otherwise humdrum Republican immigration platform is the call for a guest worker program.  It’s not much, but relative to the hardline GOP stand to not do anything except further secure the border this is a big deal!

Of course, not all Texan GOPs are happy with this but the alternative would make them miserable, the resurgence of the Texan Democrats.  The chair of the Texas Republican Party, Steve Munisteri, points out that while Republicans dominate statewide, with the exception of 2010 there has been a downward trend in the percentage of the vote received by Republican candidates.  At the root of this trend is simply one of life cycle.  Close to half of all Texas Republicans are over 70 years old.  The party literally needs new blood, and given the Latino population boom in the state of 65 percent over the last decade, that growth needs to come from Latinos.

Up until 2010 the state’s Republican party had no Latino outreach.  The party’s chair seeks to change that, as he has done the math.  The other factors that are pushing upon Texas’ shift to a more moderate immigration stance comes from Latino Republicans themselves.  There are a growing number of elected and appointed Latino officials.  This segment has been keeping the pressure on from the inside and was key in the inclusion of the guest worker component in the party’s new platform.  The pressure to shift comes from the legacy of George W. Bush and Karl Rove who recognized the policy and electoral virtues of having a moderate approach to immigration.  Most recently, there are strong rumors that George P. Bush, the son of Jeb Bush and a moderate on immigration, is gearing up to run statewide.

The Texas GOP is still a long way from winning the hearts and minds of the growing Latino electorate.  Today about a quarter of Latinos identify as Republicans, but at the rate of population growth this figure isn’t enough to keep the Republicans partying on past the next 10-15 years.  To keep afloat the Texas GOP, like the larger national party will have to keep working toward moving toward solutions such as guest worker programs and away from the harsh rhetoric that not only repels Latinos, but mobilizes them to vote against the GOP.  The Texas Republican Party’s support for a guest worker program is one that is immersed in a sea of draconian immigration views, however it’s a start and it just might be the needed push for a larger shift at the stateand national level.

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