GOP calls for immigration reform in Spanish, ignores it in English

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Do Republicans want immigration reform or not?

You might be confused if you were watching their speeches in response to President Obama's State of the Union on Tuesday night.

The GOP aired two separate rebuttal speeches: a headliner in English by Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) and another in Spanish by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (Florida).

Ernst avoided bringing up the topic of immigration, even though her party has blasted Obama for providing deportation relief to undocumented immigrants.


Curbelo went in a different direction.

"We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system," he said in Spanish, "in order to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration and strengthen our economy."

The liberal political action committee American Bridge quickly circulated a video calling out Republicans for the disparity in their message (note: American Bridge's translation left out Curbelo's mention of securing the border).

News reports circulating earlier in the day said the speeches would be the roughly same ideologically, with Curbelo swapping in his own story in place of Ernst's personal anecdotes. But the party reportedly decided to offer a double-take on immigration.


Ernst and Curbelo stand far apart on immigration policy. The Iowa senator has spoken out against "amnesty" in immigration reform. And this weekend, she is slated to speak at a conservative immigration event in her home state, hosted by one of the party's biggest hawks on the issue, Rep. Steve King (Iowa).

In contrast, Curbelo won office in South Florida showing his support for immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He didn't go that far on Tuesday, but he put the issue in the spotlight.


"In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these," he said in the response to Obama. "Now we ask him to cooperate with us to pass them."

Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.

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