Former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart told the Hispanic Leadership Network conference Friday that even if the party's policy positions appeal to Hispanic voters, the GOP will not gain power if people think of it as anti-immigrant.
"If we become perceived as an anti-immigrant party, America, being a country of immigrants, will never allow us to be the majority party," said Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who retired last year.
Legislation that tackles most of the thorny issues of immigration reform has already been drafted in Congress by a secret work group, he added, but politicking has kept the proposal from seeing the light of day. Diaz-Balart criticized Democrats for failing to bring forth immigration reform forward, though Republicans failed to get anything passed on the issue when they controlled Congress and the White House.
"I think this issue can be tackled," Diaz-Balart said. "But the decibels have to lowered. Respect has to be the number one priority."