In September, I wrote a post captioned "Miami-Dade and the Myth of the Monolithic Latino Voter: Not surprisingly, 'Latino voters are in many ways just like everyone else' and not focused just on immigration policy". I would say that I was prescient in discussing the Latino vote and President Trump's re-election campaign, but I have been around politics for almost two decades, and I was simply reiterating what the facts were. But to understand the full picture after the fact, focus on two elections: the Florida presidential vote, and the 23rd Congressional District of Texas.
I will note, as I did in that post, that I eschew such broad demographic labels as "Latino" (or "Hispanic"), generally and especially when it comes time for elections. They only serve to divide Americans and make little sense in the rest of the world.
With respect to this latter point, if you are allowed to cast a ballot for president, you are a "citizen" (or "national", which generally means the same thing). That means you are an "American". You are motivated to cast your ballot for any number of reasons, and perhaps your ethnicity and the individual candidate's immigration policies are one of those reasons, but is likely never the only one.
As the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, almost half of the Latino voters in Florida cast their votes for Donald Trump. It essentially makes the same point that I made in the paragraph above, but with its own gloss and spin about the campaigns' outreach efforts (or lack thereof) and "disinformation and mischaracterizations".
It is true, however, as that article states, that "Latino" voters in Florida (or their families) hail largely from two specific places: Cuba and Puerto Rico. According to the Pew Research Center, "Latinos" were 17 percent of registered voters in Florida in 2020. In 2018, 29 percent of them were "Cuban" and 27 percent were from Puerto Rico. (Noting that Puerto Ricans are citizens by birth would be talking down to the reader.)
Ten percent were Mexican and 10 percent were either Colombian or Venezuelan. The latter are the fastest growing group in the Sunshine State — increasing their numbers 184 percent from 2008 to 2018. One could argue that the Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans — both of whom likely arrived to flee "socialist" regimes — are likely to be more "conservative" than other Latinos. In this country, that label is applied to the Republican Party, and therefore it makes sense that they would pull the lever for the GOP.
The Puerto Rican population is a bit more nuanced. Forgotten in the run-up to the election is the fact that the Governor of Puerto Rico — herself a Republican — endorsed Donald Trump, and in no uncertain terms: "I ask all the Puerto Ricans who are listening to me to go vote ... and evaluate who has represented themselves as someone who thinks about Puerto Ricans and their needs in the most difficult moment: It's Donald Trump."
Interestingly, that fact is omitted from the Post article, which does note: "Puerto Ricans, whose numbers have grown in the state in recent years, are often assumed to be Democrats. That is not always the case among many evangelical Protestants and those who have recently moved from Puerto Rico." But it then leaves hanging why recent arrivals from Puerto Rico might be more inclined to vote for the Party of Lincoln.
Note that Jenniffer González, the current representative from Puerto Rico in the U.S. House (technically the "resident commissioner", who can vote in committee but not on the House floor), makes no bones about the fact that she is "[a] lifelong Republican", who in fact was speaker of the commonwealth's House for a four-year term. She "easily won" reelection to the U.S. House in an otherwise hotly contested election this year.
Puerto Rican politics is nuanced, and does not break down between "Republican" and "Democrat". Instead, it is led by the "New Progressive Party" (which is more conservative, but has Democratic adherents) and the "Popular Democratic Party". There are smaller parties, as well.
Puerto Ricans who have lived longer in the United States are likely influenced in the same way by local issues as their fellow citizens are (particularly evangelicals). But, as Politico reported in September, "the conservative values and Latin traditions are more akin to the values of a Republican Party" among Puerto Rican residents, at least according to one expert. In any event "[b]oth major islandwide elected officials in Puerto Rico are registered Republicans."
Turning from Florida to a more local race, that for the congressional seat in Texas' 23rd congressional district, tells a slightly different — but similar — story. Texas 23 is huge, running east from the outskirts of El Paso down the Rio Grande Valley to just north of Laredo (ending at the Webb County line), and north to the edge of Odessa and the San Antonio suburbs. And, at more than 58,000 square miles, it is larger than South Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware, and Rhode Island — combined.
Created in 1967, it has changed parties many times since. Texas 23 was 70.8 percent "Hispanic" in 2018, according to Ballotpedia. Some 15.1 percent of the residents of the district are foreign-born; given its proximity to the Rio Grande, most likely in Mexico.
Republican Will Hurd represents it (for the time being), as he did in the 115th Congress. He won it by about 3,000 votes in 2016 (a squeaker by any standards) and just 900 votes in 2018.
I know Hurd (he sat on the House Oversight Committee when I was a staff director for its National Security Subcommittee), who was previously an undercover officer with the CIA. To say he is smart would be an understatement — he is likely the smartest member of Congress I knew based strictly on intellectual firepower. He is also the only African-American in the current GOP House delegation, and announced his retirement during the summer.
The Republicans nominated in his stead Tony Gonzales. Gonzales won in 2020 by more than 12,000 votes, capturing 50.7 percent of the electorate (a Libertarian won an additional 2.8 percent).
Gonzales is as interesting as Hurd. A Navy veteran, he rose to the rank of master chief petty officer, an "E-9" in military terms — about as high as a noncommissioned officer can reach. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Gonzales is a career cryptologist.
He also holds a PhD in International Development with an emphasis on Security Studies and International Politics, and is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, teaching counterterrorism. Did I mention that he has his own non-profit foundation? It is "focused on empowering and encourage[ing] growth and development in impoverished areas of San Antonio by uniting local businesses, schools, and families".
Gonzales is fairly conservative by any standard: He advertises himself as "100% pro-life" (he has six kids himself), and "advocates for pro-family legislative policies such as school choice, expanding the child tax credit, and supporting advanced skills to adult learners". He is also a Second Amendment supporter, "and advocate in any forum when they are infringed upon."
He also pulls no punches on immigration, stating: "Our immigration system is broken. There's no doubt in my mind that immigration reform starts with southern border security." On the last issue, he avers: "I will support significant increases in border security, with new border wall in high traffic areas, and work to shut down sanctuary cities, and modernize our entry/exit system to limit fraud." He was criticized for using "a fake U.S. Border Patrol agent" in an ad.
His (main) opponent, Gina Ortiz Jones, took a different tack in her campaign. While advocating for "Responsible Immigration Reform" (which anyone interested in immigration supports, but which means different things to different people), she stated she would "work to ensure our immigration policies focus on tapping into our country's potential — not forcing vulnerable communities into the shadows."
With respect to border barriers, Ortiz Jones vowed that she would: "Ensure we do not throw billions of dollars away on an ineffective, wasteful border wall."
Lest you think that Gonzales was "safe" in a solid red district — think again. The Cook Political Report — a bible for political junkies — stated, when the current representative announced his retirement: "Hurd is probably the only Republican capable of holding Texas's massive 23rd District."
Hillary Clinton carried it by three percentage points in 2016, and Cook moved it to "Lean Democratic" in its horse-race ratings, stating: "November 2020 will feature a much higher Hispanic turnout than that race and possibl[y] November 2018, complicating the math" for a Republican candidate. Not to criticize Charlie Cook: Ted Cruz lost there in 2018 by five percentage points.
Again, Texas 23 is a large — and largely Hispanic — district. And yet, a pro-life, pro-gun, border security Republican managed to do it — by a larger margin than the purportedly indispensable (for the GOP, at least) Will Hurd.
Whether you prefer "Latino" or "Hispanic" as a designation (I prefer "American", as I stated), the voters in that demographic are not "monolithic", and where they fall on the issue of illegal immigration plainly varies.
Just look to Florida, and a congressional district the size of four states.