By Daniel P. Cortez
With Hispanic Heritage Month in full swing, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wisely met with three dozen of Virginia’s leading Hispanic activists and business entrepreneurs in Northern Virginia Wednesday.
Those attending made up a who’s who of the Latino community gathering at the El Paso restaurant in Alexandria. My Texas roots appreciated the location and the RNC private invitation. Finally, it appears the GOP recognizes that the majority of Hispanic voters or any other nationality are like me, not registered party members.
Priebus received a plurality of opinions inquiring about the Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump.
“Everyone has a different opinions of what immigration should entail,” Priebus stated. He acknowledged the presidency would not be won by either party without carrying Virginia. What was a point of agreement by those assembled was the need to resolve the immigration debate expeditiously and address Hispanic concerns.
Trump continues to be the focus and fear of many establishment conservatives due to his firm stance and methods to resolve the immigration.
The issue remains personal to me. Decades ago my godson was murdered by an illegal immigrant drug smuggler. He was the son of my best friend Phil Chavez who served with me in Vietnam and as a Marine Drill Instructor; Phillipe Chavez Jr. who was also a veteran was all that was right in the nation.
Many of our Hispanic voters have compassion for the struggle of immigrants as family ancestors either earned citizenship by serving in the armed forces or through the complex legal process.
Tragically many immigrants were victims of corporate greed during the Bracero program of 1946-1964 and were prevented from legally assimilating. Second and third generation dreamers still remain in the shadows. Then we have the illegals who attempt to game the system with the difficult border baby issue. I have changed my opinion about the intent of the 14th amendment and now suggest these children should not be granted citizenship.
We also have those members of the undocumented community who feloniously break our laws. None of us who have served our nation honorably in war or peace and built successful businesses wish to be identified with any segment of 11 million illegal immigrants who commit the rapes or murders our sons and daughters. And the undocumented who traffic in illegal drugs bring further shame to our community.
Initially, it was my hope former Governor Jeb Bush might be the answer or possibly Senator Marco Rubio but both have struggled in the polls due to the Trump phenomena. Should Bush or Rubio become the Republican nominee, I see compassionate resolution if elected.
Priebus remained fascinated in the lack of unity toward one specific candidate by the Latin mostly conservative business community. What I found equally fascinating was that no other possible candidate was mentioned by any person present. Such is the fascination and angst over Trump which might fade after he actually presents some substantive answers to the nation’s real problems.
Clearly at this juncture the nation wants action, remaining fatigued with the present establishment candidates. But tomorrow is another day.
The event was the brain child of well-known Hispanic businessman and Vietnam veteran Luis Quinonez. He hopes to gain RNC support launching an initiative designed to match successful Hispanic entrepreneurs to provide business mentoring with a life coach setting to at-risk students who need positive role models.
“Credit Chairman Priebus for having the compassion for out of the box thinking that provides stimulus for families, demonstrating the genuine heart of conservatives,” stated Quinonez.
The select business group also included Theresa Alvillar-Speake, chairwoman of Virginia’s Advisory Hispanic Council. Saturday, along with the RNC, she’s hosting a social function at her Alexandria home to showcase Hispanic Republican candidates.
Popular former Governor George Allen and wife Susan join Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, RNC Co-Chairwoman Sharon Day, and RPV Chairman John Whitbeck there to also celebrate Hispanic Heritage month with Alvillar-Speake and other Latino leaders.
Virginia’s been a tough nut to crack for gaining Latino support. The insensitive language of former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli during his gubernatorial run badly damaged relations with Hispanic leaders like Quinonez.
The callousness of House Speaker Bill Howell with his opposition to minority concerns regarding healthcare and blocking dream act legislation along with actions by other politicos such as Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart bears considerable blame for the brutal Republican defeat last election.
According to a recent WalletHub study, Hispanics comprise 17.4 percent of the U.S. population and is the second fastest growing minority group only being overtaken by Asians. And Virginia ranks 30th for Hispanic public high school graduation, 26th for English proficiency and has the 6th highest poverty rate in the nation.
So changing the Republican image and hopefully addressing these issues falls not just to the leadership of our governor but Priebus and people like the newly elected Stafford Republican committee Chairman Dirk Maurer.
Maurer says he acknowledges Priebus’s intentions in the Hispanic community stating, “There is a commonality of interests that must be nurtured.”
Priebus had the moral courage to admit trouble reaching out to the black and Hispanic community and pledged more involvement to hear minority concerns.
Building cultural relationships is the key. At least Priebus recognizes it has to be part of the political basics to win back Virginia and Latino votes.
Daniel Cortez, a distinguished Vietnam veteran and award winning writer-broadcaster, and is active in veterans and political affairs with an independent voter perspective. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org