As the Latino population swells, more and more members of Congress count us among their constituents, and the attention they pay us is critical. LATINO Magazine therefore selected 30 non-Latino members of the House and Senate and graded their support for the Latino community.
It was not easy to decide who would be included in this first-ever Congressional Report Card. We relied upon conversations with community leaders, lobbyists, and legislative experts, and conducted our own research of a legislator’s voting record and positions on issues of importance to Latinos. Those who had outstanding records received “three thumbs up,” and those who didn’t were given “three thumbs down.” Others received “two thumbs” or “one thumb” up or down, much like Roman gladiators. We also included the percentage of Latinos in each Congressional District or state, which is often quite telling.
Many choices may seem surprising, but we had our reasons, valid or not. We also tried to include both Democrats and Republicans in each category from different parts of the country. While support for immigration reform provided a convenient litmus test, we looked at other factors as well. This is by no means a definitive list, and we apologize for any oversights. Should we make this an annual feature and rate all members of Congress, much as the NRA does? Your feedback to the editor is welcome at email@example.com.
Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) 66%
Rep. Green has a broad network of Latino supporters, and has strongly opposed legislation that undocumented immigrants be reported to authorities if they seek medical treatment. He is also an advocate of including more funding for Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) 15%
Rep. Polis has been honored by the Mexican government for his work on behalf of the Latino community in the U.S. He supports comprehensive immigration reform and voted in favor of a number of programs that benefit the Latino community, including expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) 16%
Former House Speaker Pelosi has received a 100% rating by the NAACP for her stance on affirmative action. She is a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, and has voted for additional funding for children’s health programs.
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) 30%
As one of the “Gang of Eight,” Senator McCain has faced an uphill battle within his own party. At a fiery town hall meeting in Arizona earlier this year, he defended immigration reform and said, “It’s not acceptable to have 11 million people living in the shadows of this country.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) 59%
Due to redistricting, this longtime Austin native found himself running in the heavily Hispanic 35th district which reaches down to San Antonio. He fended off Latino challengers in the primaries and handily won the general election. Throughout his career he has worked on behalf of farmworkers, and was a four-time sponsor of the DREAM Act.
Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico) 47%
While an immigration hardliner, Rep. Pearce was re-elected in a heavily Hispanic district with 59% of the vote. His secret? “Talk with them about family, about the economy; you build up a sense of knowledge about who you are...” he explained. This approach must work, since he’s the only Republican in the New Mexico congressional delegation.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) 20%
Senator Schumer was a key negotiator for the Democrats in this summer’s passage of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. The Brooklyn native has voted against declaring English as the country’s official language.
Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-Arizona) 30%
A former social worker, Congresswoman Sinema hired a DREAMer student to work in her district office. While in the Arizona state legislature, she opposed the anti-immigrant bill SB 1070 and tried to curb the excesses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) 30%
Advocates of immigration reform have found an unlikely ally in the ornery arch-conservative who chairs the powerful House Oversight Committee. He recently came out in favor of a path to citizenship: “We’re the party of Lincoln, and Lincoln would not accept people living in our country and not being citizens, or not being given the opportunity to become citizens.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-Florida) 21%
The current chair of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Wasserman-Shultz helped launch the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus. In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, she noted that “it honors a singular moment in Mexican history.”
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) 16%
Senator Durbin was a leading advocate of confirming Sonia Sotomayor to the high court. The senator also voted in favor of increasing tax deductions for college tuition, and for setting aside funds for minority-owned businesses. He has also received a perfect (100%) rating from the NAACP .
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) 5%
While Senator Graham has a mixed record, he backed Senator Marco Rubio as a member of the “Gang of Eight” in support of immigration reform. He’s also been an advocate of Republican outreach to Latinos, noting that “it’s impossible winning the presidency getting 27% of the Hispanic vote...”
Rep. Sam Farr (D-California) 43%
Rep. Farr supports more immigrant visas for skilled workers and voted in favor of more funding for HSIs. The Northern California representative also supports increasing the number of children eligible for free school meals and voted in favor of extending unemployment benefits.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-California) 40%
An Air Force veteran, Rep. Denham has introduced legislation for DREAMers to achieve citizenship through military service, and in recent testimony has voiced cautious support for other pathways as well. He noted that his father-in-law is a naturalized citizen from Mexico and his wife is a first-generation American.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-New York) 40%
The suburban New York City legislator wrote the bill that led to the transfer of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques from the U.S. Navy to Puerto Rico, and has voted for increased funding for more bilingual healthcare providers at community health centers nationwide.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) 2%
The powerful House Judiciary Committee chairman has opposed a pathway to citizenship and said bills on an agriculture worker program and workplace enforcement would come first. “I’m going to be very cautious about setting any kind of arbitrary limits on when this has to be done,” he said.
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia) 1%
Rep. Rahall voted for Rep. King’s amendment to end DACA (see below) and appears likely to oppose immigration reform in the House. “I’m opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants,” he recently declared, though his grandfather arrived from Lebanon in 1902.
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-North Carolina) 4%
Rep. McIntyre has opposed immigration reform on various fronts. While his constituents are far from the border, he voted to build 700 miles of “two-layered reinforced fencing” facing Mexico. He has also supported the Minutemen, volunteers who patrol the galaxy in search of “illegal aliens.”
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) 5%
Senator Grassley voted against comprehensive immigration this year and in 2007. He also opposes guestworker visas and is against any legislation that offers a pathway to citizenship. Additionally, he voted against confirming Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) 27%
The Senate Majority Leader has an often prickly relationship with Latino politicians. “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay?” he once said in reference to Nevada Republican Governor Brian Sandoval, who defeated Mr. Reid’s son, Rory Reid.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) 9%
Senator Isakson fiercely opposed the Senate bill, though he may face pushback as his state’s Latino population grows. The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) called his position “inconsistent with the overwhelming support of the bill expressed by the public in his state.”
Rep. John Barrow (D-Georgia) 5%
Representing a conservative district in Augusta, Rep. Barrow is an outspoken opponent of “amnesty” and called the Senate bill “a pig in a poke.” He also supported an amendment sponsored by Rep. King (below) to cut off funding for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) 5%
As chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Senator Stabenow was instrumental in passing $4.1 billion in cuts over ten years to the food stamp program, a lifeline for millions of Latinos facing food insecurity. One in seven families nationwide depends on the program.
Rep John Boehner (D-Ohio) 1%
Invoking the so-called Hastert Rule, House Speaker Boehner declared the Senate bill dead on arrival and said any immigration legislation must have the support of a majority of GOP House members. According to some, the bill would pass handily if he would let it come to a vote.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) 3%
The 36-year-old freshman from Arkansas is emerging as a key opponent to immigration reform in the House. He’s been a conservative spokesperson on the issue, speaking on various television and radio shows against the Senate’s “enforcement later” approach.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) 4%
Always simpatico, Rep. King secured his racist bona fides with this famous quote referring to immigrants: “You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s friskiest...not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.” He also labeled a majority of DREAMers “drug mules” with “calves like cantaloupes,” prompting students to deliver fruit to his Capitol Hill office.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) 9%
Rep. Gohmert graces our Hall of Shame for a peculiar conspiracy theory which he claimed to have gleaned from a retired FBI agent: “[Terrorist cells] would have young women who became pregnant and get them into the U.S. to have a baby... and then they would turn back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists.” Al Qaeda anchor babies?
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) 4%
Senator Sessions was the immigration reform bill’s most implacable enemy in the Senate. A former Eagle Scout, he somehow has it in for Dominicans and once declared that, “Fundamentally, almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. is coming because they have a skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society.”
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) 4%
Rep. Young recently described workers on his father’s farm in California as “wetbacks.” Despite widespread condemnation, he did not make a full apology, saying he knew that it’s not a term currently in use and meant no disrespect. Are there wetbacks in Alaska? What about Eskimos?
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) 38%
Taking his best shot (from the hip) to kill the Senate bill, Senator Cornyn tried to pass a “poison pill” amendment ensuring that undocumented immigrants would never be able to obtain citizenship. The Wall Street Journal noted that Cornyn’s obsession with border security was “misplaced” because illegal entries are at a 40-year low.