Two recent polls confirm that Republicans nationally remain at a steep disadvantage with Latino voters. But if GOP lawmakers in Colorado want to take one small step toward repairing that battered image, they'll soon have a chance.
They can vote for Senate Bill 15, which would create a separate tuition rate for illegal college students — a rate higher than what residents pay, but lower than the charge for out-of-state students.
Not a single GOP senator supported the bill in its preliminary passage, although they'll have another chance when it goes to a final vote this month. Then it moves to the Republican-controlled House, where its fate hangs on the willingness of some to break ranks.
It's not only dumb politics to oppose the bill. It's dumb policy. We're talking about acculturated kids who've been in Colorado for years and who are never going to "self-deport." Their home isn't south of the Rio Grande. It's here. We can either facilitate their high achievement or obstruct it.
And don't give me a song and dance about how they'll never be able to get a visa anyway in order to pursue a career. If they locate an employer sponsor once they graduate, they very likely will.
Admittedly, the conventional thesis for why Republicans have failed to make greater inroads with Latinos — outspoken hostility toward illegal immigration — only goes so far.
Yes, immigration is a major issue for many Latinos — if by no means the most important one. And true, polls show they tend to favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as well as support related policies that are poison to many leading Republicans.
But Latinos on average are also, alas, likely to favor an activist government — and thus end up backing policies that align them more naturally with Democrats, even without an immigration wedge.
For example, in a new Univision News/ABC/Latino Decisions survey, 55 percent agreed that "government should invest resources in federal projects to stimulate the economy" while only 28 percent wanted to repeal Obamacare. Let's just say Friedrich Hayek wouldn't be pleased.
Still, do Republicans need to go out of their way to alienate Latinos, as if perversely determined to check any drift their way? A recent Fox News Latino poll found that "in head-to-head match-ups [with President Obama] none of the GOP candidates would garner more than 14 percent of the Latino vote come November." That figure will obviously rise, but it's still shocking. Surely it reflects to some extent the one-upmanship that occurred in GOP debates, in which the slightest hint that any illegal immigrant might eventually be allowed to stay was denounced as treachery.
You can favor tight border security without sounding obsessive or punitive. Yet in the Senate debate on SB 15, reports EdNewsColorado, Republican Sen. Scott Renfroe strayed into both traps by talking about immigrant lawbreakers and telling a "story about an Arizona rancher murdered on the border. 'That's the other side of the equation we don't talk about,' " he said.
Since when is a dead rancher the "other side" of a kid studying for an engineering degree?
If you believe immigration historically has been a blessing — and if you don't, crack a book — you shouldn't run around, as too many restrictionists do, equating those who sneak across the border in pursuit of freedom and opportunity with common thugs. You simply don't need to go there to support stronger border enforcement.
In 2010, nearly 32 percent of Colorado's students were "Hispanic or Latino," according to the Department of Education. Some are illegal. Some of those are college material. Give them a boost, for heaven's sake — and if not because it's wise (although it is), then for political self-survival.