TOPEKA, Kan. - A group of Dream Act supporters protested in Topeka on Tuesday with a new kind of message: the Republican Party lost the Presidential election because it needs to "get with the times."
Longtime Republican leaders and the party's rising stars have spent the past few weeks evaluating what cost the party the election. They continue to discuss whether a change in immigration policy would be sufficient to shift the Hispanic vote to their side in the 2016 election.
It's why many, including Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour, agreed in part with Tuesday's Dream Act protesters.
With cardboard placards in hand, they said now is the time to retool the party message to appeal to America's fastest growing population – Hispanics.
Dream Act protesters, who want amnesty for young, illegal immigrants, brought here by their parents, came from all over the country.
They gathered to tell Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach his immigration reforms in Arizona are old-fashioned and will turn his party into a permanent minority party. They said Republicans must moderate its positions toward immigration and Hispanic voters or face irrelevance in the future.
"It's bad for our community," one protestor said.
Republican Hector Barreto Jr., one of Mitt Romney's Hispanic leaders, agreed the party needs to find ways to attract a changing electorate.
He said the Hispanic vote is still up for grabs and neither party should take it for granted.
He believes many Hispanics would vote Republican on issues, if permanent immigration reform – not amnesty – was in place.
“I tell people all the time Hispanics are registered as Democrats primarily but don't always vote Democrat,” Barreto said.
He admitted it will likely take more than focusing on only immigration to attract a big swing to Republicans.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported nearly six in 10 Hispanics said President Obama’s health care law should be expanded or left as is – only about a third of Caucasian voters said the same. The same report showed Hispanics, like many in the electorate, were in favor of raising income taxes in order to reduce the federal deficit.
The last president to pass an immigration bill was Ronald Reagan. Barreto worked with George W. Bush for an immigration reform bill, but it failed to pass the Senate. Barreto explained that those olive branches to the Hispanic population have given past presidents substantial Hispanic support.
Despite 70 percent of Hispanics voting for President Obama’s re-election, Barreto said they are waiting for him to do something, too.
“The truth of the matter is the President promised Hispanics the last time he ran that immigration would be a top priority,” he said. “And he did nothing.”
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