HomeLocalSalazar takes lead in pushback against GOP on immigration

Salazar takes lead in pushback against GOP on immigration


In the congressional district covering Key Biscayne and Little Havana, more than half of the residents were born outside the U.S. And when Republican U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar ran for reelection last year, she did it by a landslide margin — 15 percentage points.

The GOP’s new dominance of Florida’s 27th congressional district is emblematic of the party’s inroads with Latino voters in recent years in much of the U.S. and especially in Florida. Those gains helped Gov. Ron DeSantis decisively win reelection last year and contributed to the GOP taking back control of the U.S. House.

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That strong showing, however, is leading to some tension as the newly emboldened Republicans in Washington aim to launch an aggressive agenda, particularly around immigration policy. Salazar is among a handful of Republicans pushing back against a sweeping proposal being considered in the House that would restrict asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We understand that immigrants want to come and live in the promised land,” Salazar said in a recent interview. “Orderly legal immigration is good for the country and good for District 27.”

Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, a Mexican American Republican whose district covers a long portion of the U.S-Mexico border from El Paso to San Antonio, has been even bolder, calling the legislation “anti-immigrant.”

The dissent highlights a challenge for the GOP. The party’s future may well depend on broadening its appeal beyond an aging, predominantly white base of support. And while some conservative Latinos support hard-line immigration policies, there’s a risk that the GOP could repel other persuadable Latinos by moving too far to the right on the issue.

Democrats also face political challenges on this front. The Biden administration recently proposed a measure that would impose severe limitations on asylum, arguing that surging numbers of migrants left them little choice. The push will almost certainly be challenged in court and has prompted criticism from progressives.

Republicans have long earned support from roughly a third of Latino voters, many of whom share the party’s conservative attitudes on immigration and other issues. In November’s elections, 39% of Latinos voted for Republicans, according to AP VoteCast. That was an uptick from 32% supporting Republicans in 2018’s midterm elections.

Overall, about a third of Latino voters were in favor of increasing law enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border, while two-thirds were opposed. About half said they disapproved of the way President Joe Biden was handling border security.

Majorities of Latino voters who supported Republicans disapproved of Biden on border security and were in favor of increased enforcement at the border.

For Republicans, Donald Trump, the former president who is again seeking the White House, may have given the party something of a path on how to navigate the politics of immigration. During his previous campaigns and while he was in office, Trump embraced a crackdown on asylum rules. But he also spoke of toughening border security and building a wall. None of his actions cost him Latino support during his two elections.

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“Many conservatives felt emboldened by Trump’s performance, by the idea that a Republican could be both anti-immigrant and win Latino voters,” said Geraldo Cadava, a professor of history and Latino studies at Northwestern University and author of “The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump.”

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