The immigration divide evident from the opening hours of the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference became even more stark as the conference went on. During a Friday afternoon breakout session on outreach to minorities, called “The True Rainbow Coalition: Building an Organization in Minority Faith Communities,” Hispanic conservatives went after Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum, and other speakers who had trashed the immigration reform bill during the morning session.
Panelist Adryana Boyne, director of VOCES Action who is also promoting Voto Honesto, a Hispanic-focused initiative of voter ID-advocating True the Vote, warned that without the Hispanic vote, conservatives will never win another election. Boyne said that conservative Latinos are angered by the kind of rhetoric she was hearing at the conference. “We understand how to reach minorities,” she said. “When we hear people saying that we do not need the minority vote, we just need the white vote, we get outraged….”
Boyne said she understands people’s frustration with the RNC, though she gave party leaders some credit for trying to engage Latinos. But she said those efforts are stymied by other conservatives. “People like us that are building bridges – that’s what I do every day – get really very upset when somebody else burns the bridge that I just built, like just happened today, here.”
She also noted the racist online responses to the 11-year old Mexican-American who sang the national anthem to open game 3 of the NBA finals. When a questioner suggested that maybe those posts were planted by liberals to try to make conservatives look bad, Boyne rejected the effort to deflect blame for conservatives’ problems with Latinos onto liberals. “Let me just be clear with you,” she said, “We are talking about Republicans. We are talking about the speakers who came here today, Faith & Freedom, to speak, and who we disagree with.”
Another panelist, businessman Alfredo Ortiz, Director of Hispanic Initiatives for the Job Creators Network, agreed with Boyne that there is a problem with Republicans, including party leaders, senators, and representatives, who go on Fox and use anti-immigrant rhetoric. It’s about winning the war, not the battles, he said. And unless conservatives abandon anti-immigrant rhetoric, they will lose the war. He described the turnout for the minority outreach session as “a pretty pathetic showing.”
As if to confirm the problem Boyne and Ortiz identified, Donald Trump, the keynoter at Friday night’s gala dinner, talked about undocumented immigrants as “those people” and said Republicans supporting the reform bill had a “death wish” because “every one of those people, and the tens of millions of people that they will bring in with them, through family, through relationship, through birth, they will be absolutely voting Democratic.”
The back-and-forth continued on Saturday. Two Hispanic speakers, John Mendez of the LIBRE initiative and Rachel Campos Duffy, argued that Hispanics share conservatives’ values and could help build a majority if conservatives invested in community organizing and outreach. On an all-white-guys panel on conservatism and changing demographics, right-wing journalist John Fund echoed the call for conservatives to build bridges in minority communities by organizing businesses and churches to provide needed services.
But the final word went to closing speaker Sarah Palin, who spoke of the bipartisan immigration reform bill moving through the Senate in the most dismissive terms: “And let’s not kid ourselves into believing that we can rebuild our majority, by the way, by passing a pandering, rewarding-the-rule-breakers, still-no-border-security, special-interest-written amnesty bill.”