POLITICS

Spanish-language State of the Union GOP response offers different immigration message

Rep. Mario Diaz -Balart (R-FL) speaks to reporters following the weekly House GOP Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol on January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. Rep. Diaz -Balart will give the Spanish response to President Obama's last State of the Union address. (Photo: Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Rep. Mario Diaz -Balart (R-FL) speaks to reporters following the weekly House GOP Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol on January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. Rep. Diaz -Balart will give the Spanish response to President Obama's last State of the Union address. (Photo: Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

The Republican Party's response to President Barack Obama's last State of the Union address on Tuesday night differed very slightly, but in telling ways, depending on whether you heard it in English or Spanish.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the U.S.-born daughter of Indian immigrants, offered the GOP response in English, urging Americans to resist "the siren call of the angriest voices" in how the nation treats immigrants. Her discussion about immigration focused on protecting the border.

Meantime, longtime Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a U.S. born son of Cuban immigrants, delivered essentially the same speech in Spanish, offering an identical warning to "resist the temptation" of listening to those angry voices, but Diaz-Balart focused on passing immigration reform as the main solution to the problem.

Without mentioning names, both speeches – nearly word for word versions of each other – offered an alternative to the hard-line immigration messages resonating from the Republican presidential campaign. Front-runner Donald Trump has called for deporting millions of immigrants and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are attacking one another over who is tougher on the issue.

The subtle differences in how the GOP chose to present the message on immigration between Haley and Diaz-Balart underscores the party’s need to attract Spanish-speaking Hispanic voters, a majority of whom favor comprehensive immigration overhaul – one of Obama's 2008 election.

Below is an excerpt from Haley's speech:

No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country. At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can't do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally, and in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.

We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration and it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion, just like we have for centuries.

I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America's noblest legacies.

Below is a translated excerpt from Diaz-Balart's speech:

No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country. It is not who we are. At the same, it is obvious that our immigration system needs to be reformed.

The current system puts our national security at risk and is an obstacle for our economy. It's essential that we find a legislative solution to protect our nation, defend our borders, offer a permanent and human solution to those who live in the shadows, respect the rule of law, modernize the visa system and push the economy forward.

I have no doubt that if we work together, we can achieve this and continue to be faithful to the noblest legacies of the United States.

The speeches included another difference, while Governor Haley spoke of the June attack in her state at a Charleston church that left 12 people dead, Diaz-Balart instead spoke about Cuba and Venezuela.

"In our own hemisphere, the Cuban people have not had a free election in more than 57 years, and political detentions and oppression keep increasing," he said. "And the Venezuelan people suffer the existence of political prisoners and corruption in the most important democratic institutions."

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