Should Republicans look to Texas for immigration inspiration?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry's comments on immigration got him in trouble with tea party activists and other conservatives during the Republican presidential primaries. But the GOP may need the 'heart' he spoke of to attract Hispanic voters, who went overwhelmingly for President Obama.
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Of course it's easy for Texas Republicans to ballyhoo their inroads with the Hispanic voting demographic. After all, the state was carved out of Mexico, and Anglo and Hispanic cultures are culturally, economically and socially intertwined, much more so than in states that have seen more recent migrations of undocumented immigrants like Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.Skip to next paragraph
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But in modern times, politicians like former Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Mr. Perry have supported pro-immigration legislation, including, in Perry's case, a DREAM Act that helped illegal immigrant kids go to college. Texas Republicans have also been careful to use inclusive language, as in the case of Bush, spoken in Spanish.
Texas is already providing some answers to the GOP leadership vacuum, as well. Tea party favorite Ted Cruz, a small government conservative, former editor of the Harvard Law Review and now US Senator-elect, gave a speech this week that hinted at a potential presidential run in 2016. Other emerging conservatives have strong immigrant roots, including, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
"As a senator from Texas, the largest and most important state in the Republican firmament, Cruz has a special role in the post-Romney debate," the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza wrote recently.
In his speech Thursday night, Mr. Cruz, who was born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother, described what he called "opportunity conservatism." He talked about how the American ideal of personal transformation was betrayed by Mitt Romney's "47 percent" remark, which he said underscored a misguided idea that there's a "fixed and static pie" where "the rich are rich and the poor are poor."
"The essence of the conservative message should be we want a dynamic nation where anybody with nothing can achieve anything," Cruz said.
An immigrant's dream, writ into conservative philosophy, observed from the border frontier of Texas – it's now up to Republicans nationally to decide whether Mr. Cruz's vision is one they can support.