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House GOP pursues Latino outreach

WASHINGTON – As an immigration overhaul has stalled in the Republican-controlled House, GOP leaders are pressing forward with their efforts to attract Latinos voters who abandoned the party in last year’s presidential election.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team appear in a new video to celebrate the contributions of the nation’s Latino community and other GOP leaders are hosting a policy discussion Thursday in the Capitol on issues important to Latino voters. The effort comes with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month.

House Republicans are using the outreach to tap into the shared values of faith, family and work between the Republican Party and many Latino voters, who have tended to prefer Democrats at the polls. Four of the five Republican Latinos in the House join the leaders, some speaking in Spanish.

“America is a nation that has greatly prospered because of the hard work, ideas and innovation of the Hispanic community,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference who organized the effort, said in a statement.

Missing from the upbeat video message, though, is any mention of the comprehensive immigration legislation that is a top issue for many Latino voters. A bill was approved by the Senate earlier this year, but has been all but abandoned in the House. House Republicans remain divided over a core component of the immigration bill, the ability for the estimated 11 million immigrants who are living in the country without legal status to become citizens on a 13-year path. The GOP prefers to take a piecemeal approach to changing guest-worker and border-security laws.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who has suggested a citizenship pathway for younger immigrants but has not yet produced a bill, appears in the video. Also in the video is Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), the majority whip, whose California office was the site of repeated pro-immigration protests this summer over the stalled immigration effort.

Latino advocates of the immigration overhaul have vowed to campaign against Republican candidates who appear to be holding up the immigration law changes.

McMorris Rodgers said Thursday’s panel discussion, with top lawmakers who have been working on immigration issues, would be a chance to discuss the debate.

“It’s an opportunity to discuss the issues facing our nation, for example: immigration reform, out-of-control government spending, and an unacceptable unemployment rate – which in the Hispanic community is even higher than the national average,” she said.

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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