In his efforts to replace Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, State Rep. Raul Torres is in an uphill battle to convince the huge population of Hispanic voters in Senate District 20 that he has their best interests at heart. On Torres' website, he outlines his story of how he came to leave the Democratic Party and why “Republicans and Hispanics need each other.” Torres explains, “Being a Republican came naturally to me. Because the Hispanic community in America appreciates God, families, freedom, free enterprise and small business opportunities. The Republican Party was just a natural fit.” Torres concludes his piece, like any true Republican would, by quoting Ronald Reagan. “Latinos are Republican and they are just starting to realize it.”
It is truly remarkable that Raul Torres finds the audacity to claim that he and the Texas Republican Party have had the best interests of the Latino community in their plans. Sure, Torres and the GOP can talk a good game. They can talk about faith, family, and freedom until sundown, and they can pray that fluffy slogans mask their despicable legislative agenda. But instead of fighting for greater economic opportunity for the Hispanic community, they plan to belittle them with bumper sticker arguments. Instead of standing up for a community being disenfranchised and treated as outsiders in their own home, they have led the charge of disenfranchisement, and Raul Torres's hands are far from clean.
Torres' voting record is consistently against the rights of the Texas Hispanic Community. In 2011, Torres voted to approve the infamous redistricting maps. These maps were so corruptly drawn, the Department of Justice declared that “discriminatory intent permeated the congressional redistricting process, based on a broad array of circumstantial evidence.” Additionally, Torres voted for the equally controversial Voter ID bill that was struck down by a federal court for imposing “strict, unforgiving burdens” on poor minority voters. His crusade against the Latino community's rights and freedoms doesn't stop there. Torres has applauded Rick Perry's assault on sanctuary cities (areas that provide a safe area for non-criminal immigrants that helps build important bridges between immigrant communities). Of course, Raul Torres does not only support oppressive immigration policies within Texas' borders. In a newsletter to supporters, Torres writes about his “pleasure” in spreading the “truth” about the controversial Arizona Immigration Law, SB 1070. This was a bill that would turn police officers into border agents, asking for the immigration status of anyone “suspected” of being an illegal immigrant. To summarize, Torres has been a leading supporter in all of the most notorious pieces of legislation involving the Latino community in recent memory. He will try to pander his way to victory, but this man's voting record speaks volumes about how he views immigrants and the Latino community at large.
It must be noted that not all Hispanics are against Voter ID, the struck down redistricting maps, the raiding of sanctuary cities, and the Arizona Immigration Law. Political commentators on both sides should not group all Hispanics in one block. Like any group, each individual has their own policy priorities and beliefs. But what must be acknowledged is that pieces of legislation voted for by Raul Torres and Texas Republicans amount to more than controversial political issues. Voter ID and the GOP redistricting efforts harken back to poll taxes and the grandfather clause. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to defend the voting rights of all Americans, and these pieces of legislation unashamedly stomp on those guaranteed rights.
So if Raul Torres and Republicans are so confident that “Latinos are Republican and they are just starting to realize it”, why do they feel the need to blatantly disenfranchise such a large segment of the Latino community? If they are so confident they can win on the arguments, why do they feel the need to draw up maps with “discriminatory intent”? Because they don't have the arguments, they don't have the record, and they don't have the intent of strengthening the status of Texas Latinos.