Conservative Latino leaders bristled in response to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s statement that he could not understand why Hispanic Americans support Republicans, calling him “intellectually bankrupt” and “out of touch.”
“I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay?” Reid said during a campaign event in Las Vegas Tuesday. “Do I need to say more?”
Mario Lopez, president of the right-leaning Hispanic Leadership Fund, told The Daily Caller he thinks Reid is in no place to scold Hispanics on their party preferences.
“It’s the height of arrogance for Harry Reid to anoint himself as some sort of authority on what it means to be Hispanic,” Lopez said.
Reid has voiced strong support for immigration reform legislation in the past, promising in April that the Senate would deliver a comprehensive bill by year’s end. Despite much rhetoric from Democrats and a major speech from President Obama on the issue, it is not clear that a bill will make it through the congressional process before 2011.
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, told TheDC that if Democrats want to start talking about Latino support, they should take care not to assume that Hispanics like them any better than Republicans.
“Yes, [Hispanics are] angry about Republicans, but they’re also angry at Obama, Reid and his Democratic colleagues for not doing anything on immigration,” Aguilar said, adding that he thought Reid’s comments were “insulting” and “condescending.”
Reid’s statement comes at a time when Republicans are keeping the debate over immigration at full throttle. Over the past few weeks, high ranking Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner, have given credence to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s call to re-examine automatic citizenship status for those born in the United States. Republicans throughout the country have also voiced support for Arizona’s controversial immigration law, which went into affect in late July.
Lopez was quick to add, however, that it was Reid who was instrumental in killing an immigration reform deal in 2007 by supporting an amendment to the overhaul legislation that would allow the guest worker program to sunset after five years.
In response to criticism from Republicans over his remark, Reid’s campaign quickly issued a clarifying statement, but did not back away from his comment.
“Sen. Reid’s contention was simply that he doesn’t understand how anyone, Hispanic or otherwise, would vote for Republican candidates because they oppose saving teachers’ jobs, oppose job-creating tax incentives for small businesses, oppose investments in job-creating clean energy projects, and oppose the help for struggling, unemployed Nevadans to put food on the table and stay in their homes,” the statement read.
Reid’s eldest son Rory is currently in a race for the Nevada governorship against Republican Brian Sandoval, who is Hispanic. A spokesman from the Sandoval campaign declined to comment on Reid’s remarks.