Latino Republicans put brakes on Trump-style immigration law
Republicans speak out against a broad proposal being debated in the House that would limit asylum at the US-Mexico border.
More than half of the residents in the Miami neighborhood of Little Havana were born abroad. And when Republican US Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar ran for reelection last year, she gained victory by 15 percentage points.
The Republican Party's control of Florida's 27th congressional district exemplifies the party's recent gains with Latino voters around the country, particularly in Florida. These advances aided Gov. Ron DeSantis' reelection last year and contributed to the GOP regaining control of the US House.
That strong showing, though, is causing some consternation in Washington, where newly emboldened Republicans intend to begin an ambitious agenda, most notably on immigration policy. Salazar is one of a few Republicans speaking out against a broad proposal being debated in the House that would limit asylum at the US-Mexico border.
“We understand that immigrants want to come and live in the promised land,” Salazar stated in a recent interview. “Orderly legal immigration is good for the country and good for District 27.”
On his account, Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, a Mexican American Republican whose district stretches from El Paso to San Antonio along the US-Mexico border, has gone even further, labeling the proposal "anti-immigrant".
Another problem for the Republican party
The dissent indicates a problem for the Republican Party. The future of the party may depend on expanding its appeal beyond an aging, largely white base of support. While some conservative Hispanics support hard-line immigration policies, the GOP risks alienating other Latinos by moving too far to the right on the subject.
Democrats have political hurdles on this front as well. The Biden administration recently presented a bill that would severely restrict asylum seekers, claiming that the influx of migrants had left them with no choice. The push will almost definitely be challenged in court, and progressives have criticized it.
Republicans have long attracted around one-third of Latino voters, many of whom share the party's conservative views on immigration and other issues. According to the AP VoteCast, 39% of Latinos voted for Republicans in the November elections. This was an increase from 32% who supported Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.
In general, roughly one-third of Latino voters supported increased border enforcement, while two-thirds opposed it. Almost half of those polled disapproved of President Joe Biden's handling of border security.
Majorities of Latino voters who supported Republicans disagreed with Biden on border security and favored stronger border enforcement.
For Republicans, Donald Trump, the former President who is running for the 2024 presidency, may have provided some guidance on how to handle immigration politics.
Trump supported a crackdown on asylum procedures throughout prior elections and while in government. He also mentioned beefing up border security and erecting a wall. Throughout Trump's two elections, none of his acts cost him Latino support.
“Many conservatives felt emboldened by Trump’s performance, by the idea that a Republican could be both anti-immigrant and win Latino voters,” stated 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.”
The immigration bill introduced by Texas Republican US Rep. Chip Roy would require US officials to immediately bar or hold asylum seekers while their applications are being processed. Currently, asylum seekers can be freed with reminders to appear in court and fight for their right to asylum. In addition, if there is no "operational control" at the US-Mexico border, US immigration officials would be able to bar all migrants from entering.
Last Monday, Roy asked his Republican colleagues to support the bill in a letter. He called Gonzales and Salazar's questioning of the measure "absurd" in an interview.
Salazar, who has the support of Trump and DeSantis, has been vociferous about the need to secure the border, as well as push for an immigration overhaul that grants some status to those who are already in the nation illegally. She and her colleagues are simply collaborating to ensure that the idea does not break any asylum laws.
Several Democrats have reportedly used Salazar's remarks to justify their opposition to Roy's measure. At a border security hearing, US Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., displayed a poster board with a remark from Salazar, "Are we stupid? Come on. This country was built on bright minds. Consider Albert Einstein. We gave him a piece of paper and told him to come in."
Addressing his fellow lawmakers, he added, “Listen to your own colleagues, who know better about this than you.”
Early this month, the Biden administration annulled a policy on March 2021 requiring migrants to be provided charging documents with a court date by Customs and Border Protection shortly after they were apprehended.
Due to this, several migrants are now scattered across the US without a court date to determine whether they can remain in the country.
While the one-year eligibility deadline to apply for asylum for some is nearing expiry, many remain confused as to how to proceed with the next steps.
More than 800,000 migrants were released on Notices to Report or Parole Plus ATD between late March 2021 and late January 2023. Likewise, about 214,000 were issued charging documents with court dates, the report states.