Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Is Ryan wooing Hispanics for 2016?

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
updated 7:37 AM EDT, Fri April 26, 2013
Ruben Navarrette says Paul Ryan's visit to Chicago may have been partly to kick off his 2016 Hispanic outreach efforts
Ruben Navarrette says Paul Ryan's visit to Chicago may have been partly to kick off his 2016 Hispanic outreach efforts
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: In Chicago visit, Rep. Paul Ryan speaks in favor of immigration reform
  • He says many in GOP oppose Senate bill; Latinos know Ryan has record of backing reform
  • Is Chicago trip kickoff of 2016 Hispanic outreach efforts? It could help, if he follows up, he says
  • Navarrette: Rubio, Bush others likely to do same. In Latino outreach, little things mean a lot

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette

(CNN) -- I bet that Paul Ryan is not typically serenaded by mariachis.

But then, this week was anything but typical for the Republican congressman from Wisconsin.

Ryan traveled to Chicago--and across the aisle--to appear alongside Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, perhaps Congress' most vocal proponent of immigration reform.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

The two men gave a joint presentation at the City Club of Chicago, where -- even in that bluest of blue cities -- the business friendly audience probably favors many of Ryan's economic policies.

Before that, the two lawmakers went into a Hispanic neighborhood to meet with activists, members of the clergy and immigrant advocates. It was there that the mariachis greeted them. In the crowd, a man appreciatively held up a banner with Ryan's photo on it and the words: "Gracias, Ryan."

For immigration reform advocates, there is a lot for which to be thankful these days. At a time when more and more Republicans in Congress are expressing skepticism about a Senate bill that combines border security with a guest worker program and legal status for the undocumented, Ryan is doubling down on his support. He thinks the current system is failing us. He told the crowd that what we're doing now is bad for national security, bad for business, bad for communities and bad for families.

Right you are, congressman. On all counts.

During the visit, Ryan told reporters: "I would say for the sake of our national security, we want to modernize our immigration laws. We do not even know how to track people who overstay their visas. We need a modern immigration system that helps us not only protect our border but protects national security in all of its aspects. So if anything, I would say this is an argument for modernizing our immigration laws. We need it for national security, we need it for our economy."

And when Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, talks about the economy, he is on familiar terrain.

"If you take a look at contributions that immigrants make to society ... it produces faster economic growth, which brings in more revenue to the federal government," he said. "So if you look at this issue in its totality, immigration is a net positive contributor to the economy."

The congressman also knows his way around the immigration issue. In 2005, as Gutierrez reminded the crowd, Ryan co-sponsored an immigration reform bill in the House that was ultimately voted down. He has said he is especially concerned that employers, including the kinds of farmers and ranchers who populate his home state, have access to the labor they need to stay in business.

Giuliani: Immigration reform a hurdle
Can GOP court Hispanic vote?

In fact, over the last decade, Ryan has supported or co-sponsored what the anti-immigrant group, NUMBERS USA, disdainfully called "various amnesties to give illegal aliens a path to citizenship." It's one reason that the group -- which advocates both an end to illegal immigration and a dramatic reduction in legal immigration, to pre-1965 levels -- gave Ryan's career in Congress a "C." That grade puts him in the bottom 10% of all current Republican members of Congress, according to the group's executive director, Roy Beck. And, conversely, it puts him in the top 10%, as far as many Latinos are concerned. You see, it only helps build Ryan's "street cred" that he's not popular with groups that attract so many anti-Latino nativists.

The 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee is almost certain to run for the top job in 2016 as part of what could turn out to be a crowded field. Other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination could include Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

With that kind of lineup, you can expect immigration to be a top issue in the GOP primary. Rubio is the de facto spokesman for the 844-page comprehensive immigration reform bill cobbled together by the Senate's "gang of eight." Cruz is a vocal critic of the plan. Lately, Jeb Bush seems to have cornered the market on just about every position imaginable on a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Ryan needs to get his ducks in a row. Was this week's trip to Chicago the kick-off of his 2016 Hispanic outreach efforts? If so, will it work?

It could, if it is followed up by other visits and more speeches and continued attention to Latino concerns. It's a start. If Ryan talks less, and listens more, he'll stand out from other politicians and could impress Latino voters as someone whose interests, on some issues, align with theirs.

The GOP is doing a lot of soul-searching these days trying to figure out how to get Latinos to show them some love. There are strategy sessions and focus groups and smarty-pants consultants with their pie charts and bar graphs. But folks make this stuff harder than it really is.

In the world of Latino outreach, sometimes, it's the little things that count for a lot. Like a Republican congressman from Wisconsin taking an unexpected detour to say his piece and pay his respects to a constituency poorly served by both parties, despite the likelihood that he'll be hammered by some in his own party.

Like the man said -- Gracias, Ryan.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT