Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a conference of Latino elected officials last week that the GOP House majority’s failure to pass immigration reform could be the end of the Republican Party.

"I think in the end, my side [Republicans who support immigration reform] will win or it is the end of the party,” said Gonzales as he sat next to Latino activist Delores Huerta, also a strong advocate of immigration reform.

“This is something's that got to be solved,” said Gonzales, who served as attorney general from 2005-2008 and served on the Texas Supreme Court. “The Hispanic community is a growing political force. I don't know what Republicans are waiting for. It's as if they're hoping something's going to change. This is such a hard issue that both sides are going to have to give. There has to be compromise."

Gonzales, now a law professor at Belmont University’s College of Law in Nashville, spoke on a panel at the NALEO conference in San Diego on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Right Act. In addition to Huerta, Lei-Chala Wilson, chair of the San Diego branch of the NAACP, joined Gonzales for the discussion.

The increase of Latino voters in 2010 was “crucial” according to NALEO in several tight races including helping Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid win reelection in Nevada and Sen. Michael Bennet win election in Colorado.

— Juan Williams

Gonzales said much of the conservative opposition to immigration reform comes from “fear.”

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“Some of the resistance to immigration reform in our party is that people of the way our country is changing,” he said. “They are even more fearful that it is changing without any kind of thought or regulation or guidance from our [national political] leadership.”

Gonzales’ bottom line was that the growing Latino political power requires “two competing parties that don’t take the Hispanic community for granted, competing for our vote – I think that is very important.”

Gonzales’ pointed remarks came as NALEO released projections of increased voter turnout among Latinos for the 2014 Midterm elections. The group expects 1.2 million more Latino voters this fall, an 18 percent jump from the last midterm elections in 2010. If that analysis is right the Latino share of this year’s vote will increase from 6.9 percent in 2010 to 7.8 percent in 2014.

The increase of Latino voters in 2010 was “crucial” according to NALEO in several tight races including helping Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid win reelection in Nevada and Sen. Michael Bennet win election in Colorado.

The states likely to see the biggest shifts in Latino voter turnout this year, according to the NALEO projections, will be New Mexico [33 percent increase]; California [21.5 percent]; Arizona [21.1 percent]; Texas [20.4 percent] and Florida [18.7 percent].

Over the last three presidential elections the Latino share of the vote has increased from 6 percent of the national vote to 8.4 percent. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that from 2008 to 2012 the number of eligible Latino voters grew from 19.5 percent to 23.3 million, a 19 percent increase.

In the 2012 presidential race Latino gave President Obama’s successful campaign 71 percent of their vote. Republican Mitt Romney won 27 percent of the Latino vote.

NALEO officials expressed concern that “several states are imposing restrictive requirements for voter registration and voting that could have detrimental impact on Latino participation,” according to the 2014 election handbook released at the annual conference.

In addition to new voter identification laws in Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, NALEO officials expressed concern about new rules for voter registration. The requirement that new voters show proof of citizenship when registering has been shown by activists, according to NALEO, to “disproportionately [hurt] the ability of Latinos to register to vote and reduced Latino voter registration…”

Republicans officials in those states have enacted the new restrictions. But Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Education Fund, said Democrats cannot assume they will benefit at the polls because eligible Latino voters may turn away from politics.

“Many people have lost faith in the political system,” he said. “They don’t believe the candidates and the campaigns when they come around and make promises because they don’t see changes in their lives. And what we have to explain tour community is that voting is a long-term process.”

That lack of faith certainly seems to extend to the potential 2016 presidential candidacy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton upset many Latino voters earlier this month when she called for illegal immigrant children to be deported back to Central America in a CNN interview.

Even though she won the Latino vote in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary against Barack Obama, many in the Latino community do not trust her to look out for their interests.

As syndicated columnist Ruben Navarette Jr. wrote at the Daily Beast recently, “If the bond between Hillary Clinton and Latinos could be boiled down to a relationship status update on Facebook, it would read: “It’s complicated.”

“On the immigration issue, the Clintons have never been part of solution. They’ve been too busy being part of the problem.”

Hillary Clinton has political vulnerabilities among Hispanic voters. The GOP had better start listening to its own stalwarts like Alberto Gonzales if it hopes to defeat her and win the Latino vote in 2016.