Hispanics are all the rage today, as far as politics are concerned. As the fastest-growing minority group, Hispanics are the focus of elections, consumer items, and the future as a whole. In general, they are considered a solidly Democratic voting bloc, but there are nuances to this view that come into play when talking about a Republican primary. Hispanic-Americans come from different countries and cultures and arrive in America in different ways and settle in different areas, which means you cannot label them one way and call it a day. Politicians and voters are becoming more aware of this and will need to tailor their approaches accordingly, which may not be easy given the multitude of factors in play. This is especially evident in the run-up to today’s primary in Florida.
The main issue that comes up during speeches and debates by GOP candidates is immigration. In general, most Republican candidates oppose policies that provide amnesty, do not strengthen border patrols or citizenship checks and legislation like the DREAM Act (which provides a path to citizenship via education). These policies have allowed millions of Hispanic families to come to the U.S. over the years and so they place the GOP at odds with most Hispanic voters. In Florida, however, things are a bit different.
The two main Hispanic blocs in Florida are Puerto Ricans and Cubans. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, so their concerns over immigration – while not non-existent – are slightly different. Puerto Ricans are free to move anywhere in the U.S. and are not restricted by any immigration policy or law put forward. Traditionally, they vote Democrat.
Cuban-Americans, however, have the Communism/Castro factor. Most Cuban-Americans in Florida fled Cuba during the Castro era. They were able to escape an oppressive government and come to a land of freedoms, much like the boatloads of the downtrodden arriving at Ellis Island a century earlier. Republicans fought (and continue to fight) against the scourge of Communism, having toppled the USSR and gone to war against the Viet Cong, North Korea and Red China. The GOP’s continued resistance to Castro and Communism attracts Cuban-Americans to their rolls and has ensured the bloc’s support for many years. Also, because of the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy from the mid-1990s, Cubans who make it to American soil are allowed to stay (whereas those intercepted off the coast are turned back). This means that arrival in the U.S. is a near-guarantee of safe haven, as opposed to those immigrants that come from Mexico, Central and South American, who risk being sent back even after crossing the border.
The Republican presidential candidates have had their time to oppose immigration while focusing on the Hispanic vote in Florida. We will see what the impact of their statements is as the primaries move on to other states. Will they alienate the most coveted voting bloc elsewhere? Will they change course once Florida is done with and soften their stance in an effort to woo the voters? Voice your opinions in the discussion section.