LatinaLista — The Republican presidential candidates are probably breathing a sigh of relief now that the Univision forum in Miami-Dade County is done.
Republican presidential candidates gather before the start of the Univision Forum.
Yet, unlike the Democratic forum, this one underscored the “elephant in the living room” issue that exists within the Latino community and that nobody likes to address — there is a fundamental political difference between Cubans and the rest of the Latino electorate.
It’s common knowledge that among all the Latino subgroups, Cubans are predominantly Republican.
And while over 60% of the Miami-Dade County area is comprised of Latinos, the majority are Cuban.
Yet, Cubans make up only 3.5% of the total Latino population — Latinos of Mexican descent garner 64% of the Latino population.
And it’s Mexicans and other South American subgroups who are the targets of the anti-immigrant measures in Congress and across the country.
So, it was interesting to see in the Univision forum how questions relating to illegal immigration didn’t illicit the same intense boos and applause as questions about Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.
In essence, the Miami-area venue for this forum was “safe” territory for the Republican candidates since the major issues of this presidential race that are fueling anti-Hispanic rhetoric and sentiments across the rest of the nation aren’t nearly the same in the Miami area as in Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, Houston, Oklahoma City, etc.
Mexicans are the majority of undocumented workers in the United States. But in Miami-Dade County, people who come from Mexico make up only four percent of Hispanics, according to the annual census update in 2004. Cubans are still the largest Hispanic group in Miami-Dade, and they see the immigration fight through their own lens, focusing most of their attention on the Cuban Adjustment Act that enables them to apply for a green card after more than a year in the country. That rankles many Haitians who feel that they, like Cubans, are fleeing a repressive regime, yet they are turned away if they try to enter the United States without papers. Bumper stickers on some cars in Miami read: Equal treatment for Haitians. And even though at least two Haitian groups supported the national job strike (when immigrants would stay home from work for a day), the fear of job loss led some to keep their support private.
All of this adds up to Miami being a place where people generally support the idea of immigration reform — there has been no organized opposition — but they aren’t moved enough by the issues to march in the streets.
For this appearance by Republican candidates to resonate with the Latinos, who are most impacted by what is happening in this country and the targets of anti-immigrant measures, it should have been held in a city where the issues of illegal immigration, border security and separation of families resonate on a higher personal level.
For now, the Republicans got a pass on facing the Latino community on the hard issues that resonate with the majority.
But the race is only beginning.