In 2004, President George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in his successful re-election bid. This time around, exit polls showed Gov. Mitt Romney losing to President Barack Obama by a 2-1 margin among Hispanics.
America's increasing ethnic diversity has made it all but impossible to win a national presidential election with the votes of white people alone. Any candidate or party that wants to represent this country has to find a way to represent all of the country. Rightly or wrongly, the Republican Party and Romney were perceived by a large portion of the electorate as being either apathetic or hostile to the needs of the minority community.
If the Republican Party wants to remain competitive across the nation, it needs to remedy that. Re-embracing a more inclusive immigration policy would be a good place to start.
During the GOP primaries, Romney took a rigid position against illegal immigration that played well to a motivated niche of the Republican party. As readers of this page might appreciate, it was one of the few social issues where Romney's stance diverged significantly from the editorial policy of the Deseret News. He tried to outflank his GOP opponents on the right, going so far as to demonize Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the practical state-based methods Texas was using to deal with the huge challenges posed by illegal immigration.
Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform have focused almost entirely on preventive measures and enforcement. They advocate for stronger fences and increased border patrols with little or no recognition of the need to deal pragmatically and humanely with the estimated 12 million undocumented aliens already here. Proposals to help them square themselves with the law are too often derided as amnesty, even when such solutions include reasonable and proper penalties for breaking the law.
A well-regulated guest worker program would reduce the demand for illegal immigration, which is ultimately the key to reducing the supply of undocumented workers. It would allow border guards to focus on catching terrorists and drug runners instead of potential agricultural and service workers. It's an essential component to immigration reform that can't be viewed in isolation from the enforcement provisions that are incapable of solving this problem by themselves.
Methodical efforts to include and embrace people of good will who are already contributing to our economy is a practical and compassionate approach to a thorny immigration problem. If today's Republican Party leaders can't be persuaded by the merits of that approach, perhaps they will embrace it by virtue of electoral necessity. Otherwise, they should expect 2016's election night results to look an awful lot like those of 2012.
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