The Republican National Committee’s Hispanic Outreach Director on Friday declined to comment on President Obama’s move to stop deportations of some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.
“If you want comment, you’ll have to call the RNC and ask for a spokesperson,” Bettina Inclán said. “I’m not a spokesperson. I do Hispanic outreach.”
Inclán spoke briefly with reporters after participating on a panel, “Building Bridges to the Hispanic Community,” at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual summit of social conservatives in Washington.
In response to a request for comment, RNC spokeswoman Alexandra Franceschi provided a statement by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
“After three and a half years of not following through on his promises on immigration, President Obama went around Congress to take a purely political action,” Priebus said in the statement. “The president may think this helps his electoral chances but it complicates the potential for a long term solution.”
The statement, which was not emailed to the RNC’s national press list, echoed those sentiments earlier Friday by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
During Friday night’s discussion, Inclán and several other panelists spoke at length on Hispanic outreach, but not once did they touch on the issue of immigration reform.
That, paired with the lack of comment from national Republicans regarding the substance of Obama’s order, appears to underscore the GOP’s political difficulty — and Romney in particular — in countering the White House’s move. If Romney embraces the order, he leaves himself vulnerable to criticism of flip-flopping; if he opposes it, he risks alienating Hispanics.
National Republicans have already seen how thorny an issue immigration reform poses for their party.
Last month, Inclán was among the speakers at a roundtable with reporters at RNC headquarters, during which she stumbled in responding to a question from a reporter when she stated that Romney “is still deciding what his position on immigration is.” She later said via Twitter that she had misspoke.
Asked Friday night why she was able to speak with reporters at that roundtable, Inclán responded, “I was there. But I’m not a spokesperson.”
Inclán did respond at Friday’s panel to several questions from a moderator on the GOP and Hispanic voters.
She argued that there is a “common misconception” that the Republican Party doesn’t care about Hispanics, citing a Latino Decisions poll showing that 45 percent of Hispanic voters believe that the GOP doesn’t care about them. The January 2012 survey also showed 27 percent of Hispanics believe the Republican Party is “hostile” toward them.
Despite those numbers, Inclán contended, the Republican Party should continue to focus on economic issues, which remain paramount on voters’ minds.
“We strongly believe that we don’t have to change our message,” she said.