WASHINGTON — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday that Republicans need to show Hispanic voters that they are not “just the party of deportation.”
During a symposium at the Newseum on conservative engagement with Hispanic media outlets, Paul also said Republicans have plenty of ideas that appeal to Latinos, but acknowledged, “We got to get beyond deportation to get to the rest of the issues.”
“The bottom line is that the Hispanic community, the Latino community, is not going to hear us until we get beyond that issue. They’re not going to care whether we go to the same church or have the same values or believe in the same kind of future of the country until we get beyond that. So showing up helps. But you got to show up and you got to say something and it’s has to be different than what we’ve been saying.”
The potential 2016 candidate for president called for a softer tone when talking about illegal immigration problems.
“I think one way to get the door ajar is say that you know, Mrs. Garcia’s nephew is not going to be sent home to Mexico,” he said. “You know, because everybody — even those who are here illegally — know somebody who is here who doesn’t have the proper visa.”
Speaking of illegal immigration, Paul also said: “I think the other thing to acknowledge is it’s not always the individual’s fault. Sometimes it’s a child that has no control over this. But sometimes, it’s also somebody who came here and tried to use our system.”
He said Republicans who decry how big government doesn’t work should point out how the visa system is a mess, something many Hispanics identify with. “Forty percent of those who are here of the 11 million who don’t have the proper documents,” Paul said. “Forty percent of them came with the proper documents and then somehow lost their documentation.”
Paul, who voted against last year’s Senate comprehensive immigration bill, expressed frustration that the bill still keeps it illegal for immigrants with certain visas to change jobs while in the United States. He gave an example of a migrant worker who came here with a legal visa to pick crops for $9 dollars an hour but later saw a construction job that paid $14 dollars an hour.
“You become an illegal alien by taking a better paying job,” Paul said. “That has to be addressed. If you don’t address that, you’ll continue to have an illegal immigration problem.”
Paul said Republicans should work to get “the door ajar” for other groups of people too.
“This is true in a lot of different communities for Republicans, whether it’s simply the working class community, the Hispanic community or the African American community,” he said. “I think that what’s happened is that there is not the perception of empathy coming from the Republican Party, that we care about where they are coming from and we care about what their problems are. Until we get to that point, they’re not going to listen any of the next message.”
The Washington, D.C. event, sponsored by the Media Research Center and the American Principles Project, focused on how conservatives can better take their message to Hispanic news outlets.
Alfonso Aguilar, a conservative radio host who also serves as executive director of a Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, called on Republicans to appear more often on Hispanic shows.
“Conservative need the support of Hispanics to grow as a movement and advance the issues we all care about…. they are the largest minority group in the country, and the fastest growing,” he said.