AS Ileana Ros-Lehtinen heads to Washington this week to become the first Cuban-American in Congress, some doubt whether the conservative and fiercely anti-communist Republican will fit in with the other Hispanic members of Congress - mostly liberal Democrats - in building influence for the nation's 20 million-plus Hispanic-Americans. ``The Hispanic caucus is social issues-oriented and I think she'll have difficulty with her views,'' said Alfredo Duran, a Cuban-born lawyer and former state Democratic chairman.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen was elected a week ago to the House seat left vacant by the death of Claude Pepper (D) on May 30.
She will become the 12th member of the Hispanic caucus, which is dominated by representatives of Mexican-American and Puerto Rican descent.
Marguerita Roque, staff director of the Hispanic caucus, said that the caucus has focused in recent years on such issues as bilingual education, immigration, health care, getting undocumented aliens counted in the federal census, and minority business development.
Cuban-Americans, leaving a communist homeland, have tended to emphasize foreign policy and distrust of big government and taxes.
The average income and employment levels among Cuban-Americans are higher than that of other Hispanic minority groups.
``Definitely, the Cubans are much more conservative than the rest of the Hispanic community,'' said Mr. Duran.