Even before the opening bell at the Values Voter Summit, the Liberty Counsel hosted a breakfast on messaging and outreach to Hispanic Americans. Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver shared the stage with Tony Calatayud, a Miami-based activist who works for the Spanish language arm of Christian radio Salem Communications. Calatayud, who helped Marco Rubio get elected to the U.S. Senate from Florida, now travels the country helping to identify and support conservative Hispanic candidates with the group Conservadores.
Staver said that Hispanic unhappiness with Barack Obama is “a really good thing going into 2012.” Calatayud agreed. The growing Hispanic community could be a huge electoral force for conservatives, he said, if only Republicans would stop alienating Hispanic voters with “idiotic” anti-immigrant rhetoric. He said “the Hispanic evangelical movement in this country is exploding” and said repeatedly that Hispanics are “conservative in nature” and share the Religious Right’s values on social issues. Polls suggest, in fact, that Latinos are pro-LGBT equality, but also that Latino evangelicals are more politically conservative than Latino Catholics.
Calatayud argued that conservative leaders need to make a “covenant” with “Kingdom-minded” Latino leaders and support an approach to immigration that includes four points: border security first; family reunification; a guest worker program; and “just integration” (a term he attributed to Sam Rodriguez) of the 12-15 million undocumented people already in the country. Calatayud said he didn’t want to hear the word “amnesty” ever again; he and Staver complained about Republicans who use the word “amnesty” to describe anything short of mass deportation. Calatayud got a polite but quiet hearing from the audience for his presentation on immigration; the only applause came when, in response to a question, he affirmed his belief that everyone must learn English.
Calatayud also insisted that the eventual Republican candidate must build a “covenant” relationship with Latino evangelical pastors and devote real money to campaign outreach. He said he had hoped Marco Rubio would run this time around; he predicts Rubio will not accept a VP slot this year, but believes he will be the GOP nominee in 2016 or 2020.