A conservative Latino group is voicing its frustration with Republican immigration rhetoric on the campaign trail.
In a letter obtained by NPR, the Libre Initiative, which is funded by the Koch brothers, made a clear, bold statement aimed at fellow conservatives. It criticized what it sees as policies that "are not in line with our principles and are not in the best interest of the country." (The full letter is at the bottom of the post.)
Specifically, the group pointed to calls to end birthright citizenship and mass deportation as problematic. Though the letter does not name any specific candidates, both of those ideas were put forward by Donald Trump, the current GOP front-runner, in a controversial, hard-line policy that brought immigration to the forefront once again in the Republican primary.
Other candidates, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have said birthright citizenship should be re-examined or curtailed. Christie went so far as to float tracking immigrants and used FedEx's tracking of packages as an example.
All of that strong language has raised the ire of — and alienated — some conservative Latinos.
"We will raise our voice against unrealistic, and what I feel are ineffective policies, that move us away from much needed reform," said Daniel Garza, executive director of the Libre Initiative, in an interview with NPR.
The letter is perhaps the strongest statement the conservative group has made thus far in the immigration debate. The group said it wanted to formalize its opposition in written form for all candidates and policymakers to see.
"If you're somebody who's proposing bad policies, we're going to call you out," Garza said. "Period, without regard to political consequences, what the political winds are. We are going to stand on sound ideas and sound policy."
Garza added that Latinos will be watching how the candidates discuss immigration reform and will make a point to say something "when somebody goes so far beyond the pale."
The trouble for Republicans is that the same immigration rhetoric that's bothered some Latinos seems to be resonating in early primary states.
A majority of potential Republican voters in both New Hampshire and Iowa said they would be "less likely" to vote for a candidate "who supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented or illegal immigrants," according to the latest NBC/Marist poll.
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