This week, House Republicans released a special video in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. In it, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appear with five other lawmakers to pay tribute to Latinos. “The Hispanic community has strengthened the American dream,” says Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), “and continues to enrich our culture.”
This video inadvertently encapsulates the GOP’s Latino problem. It is an insincere attempt to connect with Latinos that fails to acknowledge the top priority of Latino voters: immigration reform. In fact, the words “immigration” and “immigrant” are not even uttered in this sixty-second spot.
Speaker Boehner opens and closes the video, which is ironic considering that he is the one person standing in the way of comprehensive reform. If he wanted to do something for Hispanics, he would allow a vote on the Senate immigration proposal. On Tuesday, President Obama told Telemundo that immigration reform wasn’t dead, assuring Telemundo’s Jose DIaz-Balart that “the only thing that’s holding it back is John Boehner calling it to the floor.”
He’s right, as the pro-reform group America’s Voice reports that there are at least 26 House Republicans in favor of reform. Together with House Democrats, they could make reform a reality. But Boehner has shown no inclination to allow a vote on the legislation that could change the lives of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and cut the deficit by $197 billion over 10 years.
On YouTube, the GOP video has racked up over five thousand views, which is not bad for a full minute of platitudes. Unfortunately, it does not seem to have gone over too well. “What a bunch of hypocrites,” writes one commenter, “Pass comprehensive immigration reform now.” “Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by passing a bill with a roadmap to citizenship! Time is now!” says another. So if House Republicans were hoping that no one saw through this, they have underestimated their audience.
Although House Republicans obviously recognize that they need to connect with Latino voters, their video is completely lacking in substance. If only these Republican lawmakers would heed their party’s Growth and Opportunity Project report. This report was the GOP’s own “autopsy,” conducted after the 2012 election. Amid 219 recommendations on outreach, messaging, and data collection, its sole policy recommendation is that the GOP embrace comprehensive reform as a way to win over Hispanics.
What’s more, in a column today for the National Review Online, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus pens an open letter to his fellow Republicans, reminding them that they must engage with Latino voters. To his credit, he mentions issues that are important to Hispanics, like education and unemployment. But just like in the GOP video, the word “immigration” is not mentioned. Not even once.
The GOP’s Hispanic Heritage Month video does include lawmakers who support reform, such as Rep. Labrador, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). Still, House Republicans would be better off not squandering their time on such meaningless promotional efforts. Consider that the Senate passed their immigration bill in June, while the House has not produced anything. Politico recently noted that there is “not a shred of urgency” to pass reform in the House. Meanwhile the House has found time to vote against the Affordable Care Act 41 times. And in June, Boehner did allow a vote on Rep. Steve “canteloupes” King’s bill to deport the DREAMers.
The video by House Republicans for Hispanic Heritage Month is a misguided, wasted effort. By omitting any reference to immigration, they only succeed in drawing attention to it – as well as to their own inaction on the issue. Latinos neither need nor care about such empty tributes. As one YouTube commenter put it, “Legislation speaks louder than videos.”
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.