Farenthold urges Republicans to better represent Hispanics

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

July 1, 2013 at 2:01 a.m.
Updated July 2, 2013 at 2:02 a.m.

Republicans are committed to immigration reform, U.S. Congressman Blake Farenthold said Monday.

Still, a Senate-passed immigration bill will likely not progress to the House, the congressman said during a stop in Victoria.

"I don't think we're going to take up the Senate bill. ... But we're committed to doing immigration reform through open process and regular order," he said. "We're trying to break it up into manageable chunks, dealing with one specific issue rather than a large, comprehensive package."

The benefits of noncomprehensive immigration reform and breaking down the issue into smaller parts allows representatives to analyze the legislation with a closer lens, he said.

Some of these include mandatory E-Verify, a visa program that allows the "best and brightest" to remain stateside and better strategies for federal and state law enforcement to work together.

"The benefits of this is that you can wrap your arms around the issue and vote for each part on its merits," Farenthold said.

Farenthold, who admitted he's about 50 percent certain substantial immigration reform will occur, said his party needs to do a better job at reaching out to Hispanics and demonstrating a genuine camaraderie.

"Hispanics are a large number of immigrants in our country now, and it's also the largest growing population in U.S. that, quite frankly, ought to be Republican based on religion, family and life issues," the congressman said, mentioning most first-, second- and third-generation immigrants emigrated from their home countries to the U.S. to build the American dream. "But we have some members in the party who, out of clumsiness or whatever, say stupid things and end up getting portrayed as racist, or that they don't appear to be sympathetic to the plight of recent immigrants and those trying to come to this country."

Farenthold said as a result, the party is held accountable for what the clumsiest Republican speaker says in a public forum, which can be exploited by the party's political adversaries.

"The real answer is that we've got to learn how to communicate with Hispanics and not allow ourselves to be portrayed and branded by our opponents as haters," he said. "We've got to train all of our members how to speak on issues. One of the things I've told the Republican Conference is that we're not going to get 100 percent on any sort of immigration bill, but let us come up with talking points on both sides so we don't throw our fellow members under the bus."

Farenthold emphasized one of his immigration bill goals is to convey a message that it's not "us against them" but "we the people."

Farenthold is scheduled to speak at a town hall meeting at the Gonzales City Hall, 820 St. Joseph's St., from 1-2 p.m. Tuesday.



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