My latest piece for Refinery 29 takes on Donald Trump’s two very different speeches on opposite sides of the US – Mexico border and why they gave me “whiplash.” Read the piece  here:

Why Trump’s Speech On Immigration Gave Me Whiplash

Whiplash. It’s the only word that comes to mind when I think about how I felt watching the two competing — and starkly different — speeches Donald Trump delivered on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border yesterday.

Trump started Wednesday as one of the best days of his campaign. Talking heads on cable news, including myself, were praising his bold decision to accept Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s invitation to meet with him in Mexico.

Standing side by side with the Mexican president, Trump lookedpresidential. He was respectful in recognizing the positive contributions Mexican-Americans have made to the United States (something I appreciated as a daughter of a Mexican immigrant). He delivered thoughtful remarks laying out a new hemisphere-centric philosophy and promising to strengthen our bilateral relationship to confront common challenges. Like many, I felt Trump’s Mexico speech was a powerful way to crush questions on his temperament and reduce voter concerns.


As the press conference concluded, Trump’s Mexican gamble seemed to be paying off: Voters like me started to feel optimistic and hopeful that this signaled a new direction on immigration that was fair and firm. His visit to Mexico was helping Trump finally move past last week’s difficulties when he vacillated on what he has made his signature issue. As his speech approached that evening, I thought he was going to give much-needed clarity on his positions on enforcement and how to deal with the 11 million people currently living illegally in the U.S. What to do with the undocumented population already here is an issue too many politicians have either failed to successfully address or avoided completely.

The first cracks in the wall (pun intended), however, appeared soon after both men left the podium. In a tweet, Peña Nieto said he made it clear to Trump that Mexico will never pay for his proposed wall. Trump has continued to insist that Mexico would pay 100%.


As the sun set on Trumpland and the candidate took the stage in Arizona, it was like a dark cloud had rolled in on the once-hopeful day. In Phoenix, the same old Trump came out roaring with such vengeance, it was hard to tell if I was watching a live speech or a rerun from the primaries.


1897_custom650x400Under the banner “The Next Generation of Conservatives” Al Cardenas kicked off the 2013 Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC), the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservatives, activists and prominent GOP voices. Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), outlined three critical goals moving forward, including “embrace changing demographics of America not by diluting our principles but reaching out to all Americans.”

America has changed significantly since the ACU began hosting CPAC 40 years ago. In today’s America Hispanics now make up 16% of the U.S. population and growing rapidly, with over 500,000 Hispanic youth turning 18 each year – voting age. This reality has not escaped conservative leaders, wide-eyed after the 2012 election.

Under Chairman Cardenas, CPAC has continued its tradition of showcasing diverse conservative voices from every background. It’s fitting that each year more of those voices happen to be of Hispanic origin.

Discussing dozens of issues during the three-day conference Hispanic conservatives peppered various panels providing their expertise and insights. Latino foreign policy specialists like Roger Noriega and Otto Riech, prominent business leaders like Hector Barreto, pro-immigration reform advocates, grassroots organizers and top Hispanic GOP elected leaders filled the National Harbor outside of Washington DC for CPAC.

The conference’s opening day featured Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Closing out the conference was Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who was tapped to give the keynote address.

A central message at CPAC is that Hispanics have much more in common with the GOP than they think.

The conservative movement is an attractive place for Hispanics, many who naturally share values with the right of center movement. Latino political attitudes on the importance of hard work, entrepreneurship, family and education all provide an opening for conservatives with this growing demographic.  A 2012 Gallup poll showed that second generation Hispanics are more open to conservative policies than their immigrant parents, demonstrating that attitudes about the role of government shift significantly between generations.

Rejecting calls from political pundits, conservatives do not believe they need to change core principles – individual liberty, personal reasonability, free enterprise and the belief in American exceptionalism – to attract new voters. Conservatives don’t need new principles, they need new ideas and better tactics on how to communicate these values to Hispanic voters.  A suggestion repeated by speakers throughout CPAC.

“You grow your tent by convincing others, persuading others that yours is the way. And you build your tent by reaching out to the new demographics of America, not with a watered down version of who we ought to be,” said Cardenas, who is the first Hispanic to lead the ACU.

Tackling one of the most controversial issues in politics, a panel of policy experts led a conversation at CPAC titled ” Immigration “Respecting Families and the Rule of Law: A Lasting Immigration Policy.”
Panelists included:
Dr. Whit Ayers, President, North Star Opinion Research
Dan Garza, Executive Director, The LIBRE Initiative
Helen Krieble, Founder and President, The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation
Jenny Korn, Executive Director, American Action Network
The Honorable Raúl Labrador
Moderator:  Helen Aguirre Ferré, Host, “Zona Politica”The moderator for the panel was journalist Helen Aguirre Ferré who began the immigration discussion saying “there isn’t a topic today that has done more to divide our nation unnecessarily.”

Selected comments by the panelists include:

Dr. Whit Ayers: Regarding the projected influx of young immigrants over the next few decades, “If we hope to have a vibrant center-right coalition, we better reach out aggressively.”

Dan Garza: Talked about the immigrant experience and his families personal story saying he was taught “hard work, perseverance and access to a free market will help us achieve in America.”

Jenny Korn: “Immigration reform is a conservative issue.” She continued, “You can be conservative and be for immigration reform.

The Honorable Raúl Labrador: “We can offer a modern immigration system that keeps us strong, safe, and free.” Labrador continued, “It’s time again for the Republican party to again become the party of change.”

One of the biggest applause for the Labrador came when he said “We have too many Republicans that speak like conservatives and act like moderates. We need Republicans that speak like moderates and act like conservatives.”

For up to the minute updates follow me at @BettinaInclan on twitter.


Greetings from the Conservative Political Action Conference were Hispanic Conservatives are poised to have a strong presence at the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists. Discussing topics from economy, immigration, foreign policy to coalition building at National Harbor outside of Washington D.C. from March 14 – 16 the conservative activist with diverse Hispanic backgrounds will provide some fresh perspective to this important national summit.

Among the conference noted speakers include two very prominent Republican Senators of Hispanic decent, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Cruz will give the key note speech at CPAC He will become the first Hispanic in CPAC’s 40-year history to deliver the keynote address.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more updates.

Below are some of the Hispanic speakers speaking on CPAC panels (This is not the full panel). For more information and to see a full list of speakers.For today, Thursday, 3/14 some select highlights:

Today from Politico’s morning score, they report on a new ad from Republicans for Immigration Reform supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Republicans for Immigration reform: $60,000, TV and cable (statewide in S.C.; March 13-19).Charlie Spies, co-founder and treasurer of Republicans for Immigration Reform: “Senator Lindsey Graham understands that immigration plays an integral role in the way South Carolinians work, live and do business. With Sen. Graham’s support, Republicans can lead the way on a comprehensive immigration reform package that modernizes the laws and encourages economic expansion, competition, and job creation in South Carolina and across the country.”

Recently we reported how Republicans For Immigration Reform were ready to get very involved this cycle and provide cover to Republicans supporting passage of a real solution for immigration.

Top news of the day for all those interested in Hispanics and politics:

Miami Herald: Hispanic Leadership Network To Meet In Coral Gables

Building upon a pro-immigration reform advertising campaign launched last Sunday, the Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) today announced its third annual Miami Conference to be held April 18-19 at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, Florida. Under the theme “Family Reunión,” the conference will be chaired by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez.

NYT: Democrat Latinos Gain Political Muscle, and Fund Raiser

The New York Times takes a look at the Futuro Fund, a fundraising arm of Obama campaign that raised $32 million from fellow Latinos soliciting donations and engagement in the President’s re-election. The Futuro Fund was founded by ” a trio of Obama donors: Mr. [Henry R.] Muñoz, as controversial in San Antonio as he is prominent; Andrés W. López, a Puerto Rican lawyer with two Harvard degrees; and Eva Longoria, the actress of “Desperate Housewives” fame.

Politico: W.H. Seeks Tech’s Help on immigration

In Silicon Valley the big concern on immigration law is focused on high-skilled foreign nationals whose advanced degrees and unique technology skills are highly sought after, as well as making it easier to allow foreign entrepreneurs starting companies in the U.S. to live here. The challenge for those pro-immigration reform activists pushing for comprehensive reform is to get the tech world on the bandwagon. There is now a strategy to change that. Read more at Politico.

KPBS: Declining Interest in “Chicano Studies” Reflect A Latino Identity Shift

Hispanic are becoming part of the mainstream and see themselves as “American” and this reality is being seen on college campuses who are seeing a decline in “Chicano Studies” enrollees, even with record number of Hispanic college students. KPBS Reports:

He said understanding the community’s demographic evolution is key. The Latinos on university campuses today are the children of the large wave of immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1980s and 90s, well after the Chicano movement’s heyday.

“It means that many of these young people don’t know what the term Chicano means in the U.S. context,” Mariscal said. “So it’s really the demographic change, and the culture that those new young people bring, that is slowly moving off center stage the term Chicano, and therefore Chicano Studies.”

Unlike the Chicano generation, which saw itself outside the mainstream and was clearly a minority, today’s young Mexican-Americans increasingly are the mainstream. Many are voting, participating in the political system from within. The four-decade-old Chicano movement is increasingly a vague memory, the term imbued with nebulous meaning.

carlos-GutierrezA new GOP SuperPAC  is providing support to pro-immigration Republicans and is ready to play in GOP primary races to support their top issue.

Led by by former US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, the Super PAC, Republicans for Immigration Reform, (RIR) sent a signal to GOP legislators mulling over immigration bills that RIR will support pro-immigration Republican candidates, and will place close attention as the lawmakers focus on the 2014 mid-term elections. Incumbent GOP legislators who take a hard line on the issue

RIR’s, whose mission is to “provide political support for Republican candidates that advance common-sense solutions to address the nation’s broken immigration system,”  is co-founded by Charles Spies, co-founder of Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super-PAC, which raised $152 million.

The Hill reports:

“We focus primarily on ‘take the vote now and we’ll support you.’ Those who don’t take the vote who get attacked by primary challengers who would have voted for it — that’s a very interesting question,” he said. “That’s also a possibility.”

Gutierrez said he would have no qualms about attacking primary challengers to pro-reform Republicans.

“If someone has voted for immigration reform and gets a primary challenger, we’ll go after them. We’ll go after challengers,” he said.

“We want to give cover to Republicans who want to vote for it — we’re going to be out there exercising our right of freedom of speech if someone attacks them from the right in a primary.”

Read more: