My name is Hunter Avilio Thomas. My mama is Dora Magdalena Salinas Thomas. My abuelos are Avilio and Mercedes Salinas. My mother was born and raised in Mexico City. Her father was a poor taxi driver and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. I am a rare specimen in politics—a free-market, small-government, traditionally-principled conservative and Hispanic. Conservatives and Latinos share many values: protecting the family, eliminating government corruption, and achieving prosperity through hard work, not entitlement. Conservatives must appeal to Latinos in an unprecedented way. Mick Mulvaney, a Tea Party conservative from South Carolina, told a group of supporters: “At some point, we’re going to figure out that if you take the entire African-American community and write them off, you take the entire Hispanic community, and write them off, what’s left? About 38% of the country. You cannot win with 38% of the country.”  This party has a bright future if it starts drawing people in instead of writing them off. To gain much-needed support among Latinos, the Republican Party must emphasize social issues to motivate Latinos and then focus on securing our borders while advancing immigration reform.
While the economy remains a top priority for Latinos, Republicans must highlight the issues that truly matter to Latinos: abortion and same-sex marriage. The Pew Research Center reported that in 2016 the economy was the most important issue for Latino voters.  But social issues tap into Latinos’ value system. Democrats may seem to have an edge on economic issues, but what really drives Latinos is not the number of social programs—it’s their families! Republicans must put social issues in front of Latino voters. Pew also found that 66% of active Protestant Latinos and 68% of active Catholic-Latinos oppose same-sex marriage. Furthermore, 53% of Latinos oppose abortion, with 70% of active Protestant Latinos and 54% of active Catholics claiming to be pro-life.  This shows that Latinos, especially when religious, tend to lean socially conservative.
The G.O.P.’s next priority should be to secure the country’s borders. According to the Chicago Tribune, among Latino voters born in the United States, resentment of illegal immigrants can run deep, with 42% disapproving of the Obama administration’s actions reducing the deportation of undocumented immigrants.  This issue is sensitive, especially considering President Trump’s unpopular comments stereotyping Latinos as criminals. Of course, conservative values do not align with those comments, but we must care about protecting our borders, primarily because of drug trafficking. Mexican drug cartels make about $19-29 billion a year in the U.S. And since 2006 over 55,000 fatalities have occurred due to law enforcement’s efforts against the drug war.  Talking to the Latino community about this issue is possible, but it must be done with honesty. Republicans support practical protection like a wall in areas of high drug activity, not because they want to discriminate, but rather to protect American citizens.
But what about the millions who have lived here illegally for years as productive workers and want to become citizens like my mother or grandparents? It’s time for comprehensive immigration reform. We must support the hardworking Latinos here to provide for their families. According to the Migration Policy Institute, just 13% of illegal immigrants in the US have known criminal convictions.  G.O.P. Senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have expressed support for an already devised bipartisan bill to reform our broken immigration system, including awarding visas to high-skilled workers.  Additionally, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan once said that his Catholic beliefs do not align with deporting innocent people. An e-verify program, a yearly visa quota, a way to deport criminals, and incentives for legal immigration are healthy for our country. Though difficult, permanent reform is crucial to defending the country and stopping the deportation of hardworking people. We need to embrace immigration reform with open arms and a love for the millions of Latinos who want to become legal.
Conservatives need Latinos more than ever. As the G.O.P shifts its focus to common ground such as key social issues, it will gain traction with Latinos. The Party should work to persuade Hispanics that conservatives do not oppose immigration. We must appeal to our neighbors in Mexico and South America. We are a nation of immigrants and we will continue to be one. Let us be a party of freedom, prosperity, and diversity. In the words of Marco Rubio, “This isn’t just the country where I was born. America’s literally the place that changed my family’s history.”  I echo those words. This country literally saved my family and its future generations all due to a courageous Latina mother and our conservative roots that will be held forever. ¡Que Dios Bendiga a Los Estados Unidos de América!
 G.O.P Congressman in South Carolina Takes a Risk With a Foray Into Immigration, New York Times, Feburary, 2014 https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/22/us/politics/gop-congressman-in-south-carolina-takes-a-risk-with-a-foray-into-immigration.html?mcubz=0
 The economy is a top issue for Latinos, and they’re more upbeat about it, Pew Resarch Center, July, 2015 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/15/the-economy-is-a-top-issue-for-latinos-and-theyre-more-upbeat-about-it/
 Chapter 9: Social and Political Views, Pew Research Center, May, 2014
 Commentary: Many Hispanics Agree With Donald Trump on Enforcing the Border, Chicago Tribune, October, 2015 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-immigration-hispanics-rubio-bush-trump-1019-20151018-story.html
 Drug Trafficking By the Number, The Recovery Village
 Unauthorized Immigrants with Criminal Convictions: Who Might Be a Priority for Removal? Migration Policy Institute, November, 2016 https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/unauthorized-immigrants-criminal-convictions-who-might-be-priority-removal
 Immigration Reformers Eye Gang of Eight Revival, Politico, July, 2016
 Full Text of Marco Rubio’s 2016 Presidental Campaign Announcement, Washington Post April 2015 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/04/13/full-text-of-marco-rubios-2016-presidential-campaign-announcement/?utm_term=.bfe6345aac29
Documentary: The Other Side of Immigration
HBO Documentary: The Fence https://play.hbonow.com/feature/urn:hbo:feature:GVU37Bg45OlFvjSoJAaWY?camp=nowdesksv1
Frontline PBS, Immigration Battle
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