Among the dozens of newly elected officials sworn in Wednesday on Capitol Hill, five are making history. They are Hispanic and Republican, and for the first time in Congress’ history, no new Hispanic Democrats were sworn in alongside them.
The addition of these members of Congress, as well as newly elected Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida, has raised questions about the Hispanic agenda in the new Congress.
Traditionally there have been two Hispanic organizations on Capitol Hill: the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, made up of Democrats, and the Congressional Hispanic Conference, a Republican body. Both promise to fulfill the Hispanic agenda. The Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus has outnumbered the Republican group in the past.
The major difference between the two groups is their disagreement over priorities.
Hispanic Democrats in Congress generally support immigration reform, calling for a path to citizenship for immigrints in this country illegally. In mid-September at their annual gala members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and President Barack Obama promised immigration reform.
The Democratic caucus has endorsed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (S 3932) introduced in the last Congress by Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The bill would boost border security and enforcement, but also provide for eventual citizenship for those now living illegally in the United States.
The Republican Hispanic Conference, by contrast, has traditionally concentrated on tax-relief, national security, and faith-based initiatives. And many of those newly elected Republicans oppose amnesty for illegal immigrints.
Hispanic Republican Bill Flores, newly sworn in from Texas 17th district, campaigned on a platform opposed to liberalizing immigration laws.
“ I will never support any program which grants unilateral amnesty to those who have broken our laws,” he says on his campaign website. “For those who wish to come to our country, they must do so by obeying our laws and complying with our system.”
As of 2010, the Congressional Hispanic Conference had 6 members. If Bill Flores, Francisco Conseco, R-Tx., Jaime Herrera R-Wa., Raul Labrador, R-Id., and David Rivera, R-Fl, (who replaced former Cuban-American GOP congressman Mario Diaz-Balart) and Florida Senator Marco Rubio join the Congressional Hispanic Conference, the organization will have 11 members.