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Texas Latino Leader Leaves Republican Party

October 20, 2011

KATY, Texas - The Texas director of the nation's largest Latino Republican organization abandoned his party this week.

Lauro Garza remains a staunch conservative, but says he's fed up with what he calls a hostile "Tea Party nativism" toward which the GOP has been tilting in recent years - at the expense of immigrants and Latinos.

"The party has left us behind. Our credibility among Latinos is strained because we identify with the Republican Party. Saying it's strained is putting it mildly."

Garza remains state leader of Somos Republicans, and says the future direction of the organization still is being worked out. While he does not excuse illegal immigration or advocate open borders with Mexico, he says politicians are guilty of exploiting ungrounded fears when they suggest comprehensive immigration reform must wait until the border is safe and sealed. On the contrary, Garza insists, reform is essential for taking the load off the border.

Garza has criticized his now-former party in recent months. He took Gov. Rick Perry to task for moving away from a relatively immigration-friendly agenda. But Garza says this week's reaction to comments from a leading GOP presidential candidate was the last straw. Herman Cain had suggested building a lethal electric border fence. Although he later insisted he was joking, Cain continued to stand by his general concept.

"The comment was met with cheers, not with laughter. Further, it's reprehensible that the Republican Party and the other candidates have let him get away with it, and for the news media to let him get away with this stupid explanation that it was a joke. It's not a joke."

Garza believes Latinos tend toward conservatism, and thus should naturally be drawn to the GOP. However, he says the party is driving them away in search of short-term political gain. While Republicans are openly hostile, he says, Democrats are apathetic and weak when it comes to immigration issues.

Cristina Parker, media director for the non-partisan Border Network for Human Rights, agrees, saying few leaders are talking honestly about what needs to happen.

"Immigration reform is absolutely needed in this country, and, unfortunately, we're at a stalemate - with the Republicans catering to nativism, and the Democrats are no better. No one's willing to step up and get the hard work done."

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX