Somos Republicans seeks to shape Colorado immigration debate

A national grassroots organization of Latino Republicans this week announced it is opening a Colorado chapter in order to impact the immigration debate in Colorado.

Somos Republicans (Somos is a Spanish word that transates to “we are” in English) was founded last year in Arizona in response to what its founder sees as hateful and destructive rhetoric and legislation in that state. It has since expanded into 10 additional states, with more coming online soon.

“Our only purpose in the beginning was to try and save the Republican Party’s image with Hispanics,” founder DeeDee Garcia Blase told The Colorado Independent this morning.

She said the group started small and “exploded” when Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070. “People feel they have to take a stand. We have to get in the ring and fight. They want Hispanics to leave the party. They try to discourage us, but we aren’t going to leave the party. We’re going to fight for the party. We are going to return it to the values of Ronald Reagan and Lincoln. They are hijacking the party with people like the Tancredo Club.”

Garcia Blase said she has always been a Republican. She joined the military after seeing pictures in Time magazine of Saddam Hussein gassing Kurds. “I joined the military because I wanted to kill Saddam. I wanted to help the underdog. I can’t help it. That’s the way I am.”

She said three-fourths of Latinos in the United States are Catholics or evangelical Christians. “Pro-life, pro-family positions are important to us. A strong national defense is important to us. Most of us want to be Republicans, but Republicans choose to demonize us with talk of anchor babies and English only laws and repealing the 14th Amendment. Let me tell you something, Hispanics speak English and the ones who don’t speak it want to learn. You don’t need to pass a law demonizing us. Calling the children of immigrants anchor babies demonizes us.”

She said Republicans in Colorado think they lost the Senate and Governor’s race because of liberal spending.

“That’s wrong. Democrats won in Colorado because of Tom Tancredo and people like him demonizing us. You’re missing the boat with this English-only crap. Leave us alone,” she said. “Democrats in Colorado are smart. They know Tom Tancredo is the best Christmas present they could ever get. Republicans just don’t get it.”

Even so, she said she and the people in her group are committed Republicans.

In Colorado, Steven Rodriguez is leading the effort with Somos. Rodrigues is a past candidate for the legislature and a fourth generation Pueblo resident. He is currently trying to drum up support for a document called the Colorado Compact, modeled after the Utah Compact, which Somos has had tremendous success with. The Compact is a short statement that Somos hopes will be used as a guideline in any immigration legislation considered in the statehouse this next session.

The Salt Lake City Council
recently voted to support the Compact and The New York Times this week praised it as a voice of reason.

Garcia Blase said Somos is working on gathering support for the document in Colorado, meeting with church groups and business organizations statewide.

“Building a coalition of religious and business organizations is key to creating intelligent immigration policy,” she said.

The Compact:

FEDERAL SOLUTIONS Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Colorado and other countries. We urge Colorado’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Colorado.

LAW ENFORCEMENT We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

FAMILIES Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Colorado children.

ECONOMY Colorado is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Colorado’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

A FREE SOCIETY Immigrants are integrated into communities across Colorado. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Colorado should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.

Garcia Blase said passage of the DREAM Act is very important. “There are so many young Hispanic kids who are just desperate. It just breaks my heart to see them with so little hope.”

Rodriguez spoke to us via email about his hopes for Somos and the Colorado Compact. Excerpts follow:

Our first goal is to build a consensus of groups and individuals to agree that rhetoric (which includes racial overtones) is void of context and superficial, and does not produce results, therefore, we must exclude it from any and all meaningful immigration discussion.

Secondly, there must be an understanding and a consensus agreement that we are dealing with an issue that is extremely complex and politically charged. It is not reasonable to expect to deport all “illegals”.

This is an issue driven by: human rights, respect for the law, business/labor relations, educational rights of children, separation of authority between the states and federal governments, and the basic attributes of citizenship itself, in other words it is more than an enforcement only issue.

Priorities must be established if coherent, effective policies are created. Thus, Somos Republicans is working via a non-partisan effort in order to effectively advocate for Latinos. Latinos need to mobilize in a coordinated effort to ensure that the interests of the Latino community are fully understood, and that any future policies are formulated with Latinos included in the decision making process. We would encourage all Latinos to come together, to join us in any and all efforts to ensure that any future policies that protect our citizens will create both economic enhancement for Colorado and economic opportunity for all.

As a former state house candidate, I am familiar with the legislative process and I am committed to ensuring that Latinos are included in the decision making process. As a conservative, I am also committed to leading other conservative Hispanics to becoming involved in the political process to ensure our voice is heard.

From the Somos Republicans web site:

Somos Republicans is a national watchdog group. The Mission of Somos Republicans is to promote political education and information needed to make more informed political decisions. To inspire the Hispanic people to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their neighbors through collaborative political education, volunteer commitment and responsible participation in society. Our vision is to increase the Latino Republican voting block by 100% within two years. To increase voter registration, precinct committeemen recruitment, campaign volunteering, fundraising and events to reflect quality of future Latino leadership.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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