GOP uses Spanish-radio ads in immigration counterattack
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/125036
On the heels of massive pro-immigrant demonstrations, Republicans on Monday launched a Spanish-language advertising campaign accusing Democrats of foiling an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.
In Tucson, the 60-second spots will air through today on La Caliente KCMT (102.1-FM), said Terry Bakos, the station's national sales coordinator.
The ads say in part: "Terrorists coming across our borders. Drugs smuggled to America's shores. But just last week, there was hope. Congress was working on immigration reform to secure our borders and protect American families.
"But Democratic leader Harry Reid let us down. Harry Reid (a Nevada senator) played politics and blocked our leaders from working together. Reid's Democratic allies voted to treat millions of hardworking immigrants as felons."
The Republican National Committee paid for the ads, said spokesman Danny Diaz. The ads, he said, aim to shed light on "the fact that the Democrats are less focused on immigration reform and more focused on playing politics."
In addition to Tucson and Phoenix, the ads are airing in Nevada, Diaz said. In New Mexico, the state Republican Party is running similar ads.
On Monday, Reid's office released a statement rebutting the ads. In its own statement, the Arizona Democratic Party called the ads misleading.
In Tucson, Donna Branch-Gilby, chairwoman of the Pima County Democratic Party, said the ads are nothing more than attempts to ward off a backlash from Hispanics.
"They're trying to do damage control, because it's in the record that the Republicans passed a bill making entering this country illegally a felony. … Some of them are even racist about this issue," she said.
Rather than respond with their own radio campaign, Branch-Gilby said, Tucson Democrats would continue working on building relationships in the Hispanic community. For instance, she noted, her group donated 6,000 water bottles for last week's pro-immigrant march and rally at Armory Park.
"That is more important than costly Spanish ads," she said.
The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that deals mostly with border security and makes illegal immigrants subject to felony prosecution.
The Senate tried to come up with a broader bill that included a guest-worker program and ways to legalize people who live in the country illegally. Efforts deadlocked before Congress adjourned for a two-week vacation on April 7.
Carlos Gonzales, marketing and promotions director for La Caliente, the city's top-rated Spanish-language station, said the ads show that Republicans recognize radio is one of the most effective ways to reach Spanish speakers — and potential Hispanic voters who traditionally vote for Democratic candidates.
"The power of radio is huge in the Hispanic community," said Gonzales, a Democrat turned Republican. Indeed, he noted, Spanish-language disc jockeys became a driving force in mobilizing demonstrators across the country and bringing attention to immigration laws.
Last year, a Pew Hispanic Center report documented the popularity of Spanish-language radio in a survey of about 1,300 Hispanics.
"This medium is exceptionally popular among Latinos," with 58 percent of adults saying they get some news from Spanish radio," the report states. Fifty-six percent of foreign-born Hispanics said they relied on Spanish-language radio for all their news.
● Contact Lourdes Medrano at 573-4347 or lmedrano@ azstarnet.com.