The Fight For Pitbull’s Political Soul: Republicans Want Pitbull To Join Them

Will Mr. 305 become Mr. GOP? Republicans and Democrats actually have strong opinions about this.

AP Terry Renna

The enduring hunt for Republican celebrities has its newest viable target: Pitbull.

Latino Republicans in Florida have made overtures to the Cuban-American star to join the party himself and support its candidates.

The Miami rapper, whose real name is Armando Pérez, served as a surrogate for President Obama in 2012, introducing the president in Florida at a campaign stop. But Republicans say it would make sense for Pitbull to make the switch.

“I saw Armando at a party in Miami the other night and immediately started selling him on Jeb,” said Ana Navarro, a longtime Republican strategist. “It’d be professional negligence not to. Armando is Mr. 305 and well, that’s Jeb’s area code, too.”

In fact, prominent Florida Republicans Gov. Rick Scott and Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado recently showered Pitbull with gifts and praise, giving him the key to the city and declaring his birthday, Jan. 15, “Pitbull Day.” Scott also bestowed the title of Ambassador of the Arts on him.

At the event, Pitbull announced the expansion of his Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM) charter school.

Anitere Flores, a Cuban-America Florida state senator recently featured as a rising star in the Republican Party, gave an honorary degree to Pitbull last summer from Doral College, where she serves as president. She said the Republican Party is where he belongs.

“Who wouldn’t want Pitbull?” she said. “He can’t just get us votes in the 305, he can get us votes worldwide.”

Everybody just loves Pitbull.

“¡Dale! The Republican Party’s doors are always open,” said Ali Pardo, a Cuban-American RNC spokesperson from Miami.

But please do not think this is just about securing the support of a famous person: Republicans point to his entrepreneurial sense (high-profile partnerships and stakes with brands like Voli Vodka and Miami Subs) and commitment to education (those charter schools!) as the basis for his GOP future.

“Pitbull is well-liked, hugely respected. I see him as policy-oriented. He’s an entrepreneur who cares enormously about education and is an active advocate of school choice,” Navarro said. “He frequently shows up in schools and gives students motivational and aspirational speeches. I don’t see him as a partisan but as a guy who is grateful for the opportunities this country has given him, and as someone who wants to give back every way he can.”

Democrats reached by BuzzFeed News scoffed at the idea that the “Give Me Everything” singer would support Republicans — and likewise showered praise on him.

“I think the Florida Democratic Party and Democratic Party nationwide, we’re the big tent party, we’re the worldwide party,” said Max Steele of the Florida Democrats. “The RNC is welcome to put all their eggs in a celebrity-recruitment basket, we wish them luck. But the Democratic message on everything from comprehensive immigration reform to expanding Medicaid, those issues resonate across the board more than a single celebrity endorsement.”

“Pitbull, a Latino icon, siding with anti-immigrants? Sorry, I simply can’t picture that with a Kodak,” said a Democratic congressional aide for a Latino member.

Gabriela Domenzain, an Obama campaign veteran, dinged Republicans, saying Latino outreach is crucial but a losing battle for them.

“The best position that any Latino voter can be in is one in which the Democratic and Republican Party are actually vying for their vote,” she said. “It’s important for them to try to convince Latino voters, Pitbull or anybody else, that the Republican Party is where they want to be.”

Navarro said that if Pitbull wants to participate in Republican politics, he’d be welcomed with open arms. But knowing him, she sees him more as someone moved by certain issues rather than party loyalty.

“I get the sense he cares deeply about advancing causes more than one party or another. He has true cross-over appeal. He not only appeals to Spanish and English speakers but also to members of different parties,” she said.

When asked for comment by BuzzFeed News, Pitbull showed that he’s not about the simple binaries of red or blue in American politics.

“I’m not here to be part of any political party,” Pitbull said in a statement. “I’m here to bring political parties to my party because they can’t, they won’t they never will, stop the Pitbull party, Dale!”

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Inside Obama’s Campaign To Use Latino Celebrities And Spanish-Language Media To Defend Immigration Actions

A court ruling suspending the immigration actions means the administration is trying to tamp down fear that they will go away. Democrats plan to hit Republicans hard, but immigration advocates are split on how much to do so.

Courtesy Telemundo

Hours after President Obama publicly discussed his executive actions on immigration in front of a crowd at a Las Vegas high school late last year, he headed to a more private gathering in a hotel suite.

There, the president met with Latino celebrities, Democrats, and Univision personalities with a clear request for them: promote the new government program that would delay the deportations of undocumented immigrants.

The meeting — which resembles the White House’s strategy for promoting the Obamacare exchanges through celebrities — included actor Wilmer Valderrama, Diane Guerrero from Orange Is the New Black, Mexican singer Pepe Aguilar, and Raúl De Molina and Lili Estefan, known for their hit Univision entertainment show El Gordo y la Flaca, as well as Univision Radio’s Enrique Santos and DNC finance chair Henry Muñoz. In particular, Obama highlighted Guerrero’s story — which had made the rounds in press reports ahead of his announcement — of how she and her family were undocumented. Valderrama also told Obama about scams that exist to take advantage of undocumented by “notarios,” people who help immigrants file paperwork with the government, which the president said he didn’t want to happen.

Now, despite an injunction by a federal judge that suspends implementation of the immigration actions during legal proceedings, Obama is using the same playbook.

Since the court injunction, Valderrama and Guerrero have done a Voto Latino Google Hangout together, and talked about what the ruling means for the community. Latin rock star Juanes also tweeted about ending deportations, which Democrats like Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Tony Cardenas retweeted.

One person familiar with outreach to multiple prominent Latin music artists said they have been approached by the administration about spreading the word about programs their fans may qualify for.

These less informal efforts are part of a broader Spanish-language effort by the White House that’s continuing even as the program has been suspended. On Wednesday, Obama will sit down with Jose Diaz-Balart, who anchors two shows on Telemundo as well as MSNBC’s The Rundown with José Díaz-Balart. The one-hour town hall, as it is being billed, will be taped at Florida International University in Miami, and is an opportunity for Obama to message to Latinos in English and Spanish.

Two days after the injunction, Univision announced “Immigration Week,” which the network just completed. In major markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Houston, the network ran programming centered on educating Hispanics on the executive action process and explaining what the court ruling means, and featured Cecilia Muñoz, the architect of Obama’s immigration policy on Al Punto — think Meet the Press in Spanish. The network also launched an interactive online tool after the injunction titled “Everything you need to know about the suspension of executive action” in Spanish.

The tone of this Spanish-language effort is twofold: a massive effort to convince potential applicants that the program is safe and will ultimately happen, despite the court ruling — and a more partisan attack.

Democrats see this as an opportunity to draw a distinction between themselves and Republicans in the minds of Latino voters. One source with knowledge of a congressional Democrat’s plans said additional efforts are underway to use Spanish-language media to tell the story of Republican opposition to the executive actions.

Behind the scenes, however, there are now concerns among immigration activists about the partisanship, which they say could have the unintended consequence of scaring undocumented immigrants.

Erika Andiola, an activist based in Arizona, was at a Feb. 12 meeting with activists across the immigration movement including Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), United We Dream, and others, where they strategized on what to do if the court decision came down.

She said a lot of the parents she works with are scared about what will happen to the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, including her own mother, because of a frantic email she received from a local organization. She said her mother was worried that the legal challenge meant the program was going to be eliminated.

Andiola said the organizations who work very closely with the Democratic Party see it as a huge opportunity to attack Republicans for their opposition.

“Which is true, but for many of us it’s, ‘OK, but how are you guys going to do that without scaring people on the ground?'” she said. “They’re thinking, ‘This is going to be over, if it comes out should we even apply?'”

Univision News executive Daniel Coronell said the network is keeping this dynamic in mind in its coverage, striving for balance, and pointed to Sunday’s Al Punto, where along with Cecilia Muñoz, Adryana Boyne, a Republican strategist, and legal experts were featured.

Calling Obama’s latest move a defensive PR campaign, RNC spokesperson Ruth Guerra said Obama “is now doing the only thing he knows how to do: hit the campaign trail. This shows his immigration action was all about politics and never about sound policy.”

Meanwhile, at the same time as Obama’s immigration town hall in Miami on Wednesday, Latino donors and actress Eva Longoria are expected to descend on Miami Beach for a fundraiser for the Latino Victory Project. A source close to the LVP said Emilio and Gloria Estefan may attend but will likely be involved later in the night as some in attendance for Obama’s speech join with some of the fundraisers and Muñoz as well. The group grew from the Futuro Fund, a 2012 effort led by Longoria, Muñoz, and Puerto Rican lawyer Andrés W. López, which raised $32 million for Obama’s re-election.

Not expected to attend are the trio of Univision personalities Obama met with back in November, like Raúl De Molina, who the next day lauded Obama’s executive actions on Univision.

“I think the whole world has waited for this for many years,” he said in a video he tweeted.

“This touches my heart because I know a lot of people from Central America who have children who were born in this country, they’ve been here for years, and they are still worried that any day they won’t come home because they could be deported.”

La acción ejecutiva es algo que esperamos por mucho tiempo.

— rauldemolina (@Raúl De Molina)

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NCLR President Will Attack Republicans: You Don’t Care About Latinos

A year after NCLR President Janet Murguia called Obama the “deporter-in-chief,” she will rip into Republicans at the NCLR Capital Awards Tuesday, in prepared remarks viewed by BuzzFeed News. “Our complaint is not partisan, it is personal.”

Janet Murguia will say the Republican Party needs to get it right with the Hispanic community before the 2016 election Tuesday at the NCLR Capital Awards. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Almost a year to the day National Council of La Raza (NCLR) President Janet Murguia called President Obama the “deporter-in-chief,” she will lay into Republicans for opposition to his executive actions and immigration legislation, saying they don’t care about Latinos and have made it “personal” with the community ahead of the 2016 election, according to prepared remarks provided to BuzzFeed News.

Murguia will make the speech at Tuesday’s NCLR’s annual Capital Awards in Washington, D.C., an event recognizing officials from both parties for their support of issues that affect the Hispanic community. In her remarks, she makes clear she is now training her ire and that of her organization at Republicans, lumping together those who support tying Department of Homeland Security funding with ending Obama’s immigration actions and the governors and attorney generals leading the 26-state legal fight against the president.

“This feels like it is about us — that when it comes to Latinos and their families, too many in the Republican Party simply don’t care,” she will say, according to the remarks. “They don’t care about the human toll their inaction has on our community. They don’t care how many of our children will lose a parent. They don’t care about the financial devastation they cause to our families and our communities.”

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Murguia said Republicans should see her tough words through the prism of the coming 2016 election.

“We’re taking the opportunity to make it crystal clear to Speaker Boehner and the Republican Party that if they don’t change course, they will lose the Latino vote for a generation,” she said, arguing former California Gov. Pete Wilson’s perceived anti-Latino rhetoric in the early 1990s made the state a bastion for Democrats.

She also addressed a concern recently shared by DREAMer activists who met with advocates close to the White House. The activists see an opportunity to attack Republicans on the issue, but worry doing so could stoke fears in the undocumented immigrant community and prevent people from even considering applying, if the program is reinstated during or after the legal challenge.

“We need to do both,” she said of the balance between partisan attacks and informing the community about the status of the legal challenge to Obama’s actions.

Murguia incurred Obama’s wrath after calling him the “deporter-in-chief” last March — she wasn’t invited back to the White House again until late last year — but many advocates highlight the moment as a turning point in the fight for immigration actions.

This year Murguia won’t hit Obama — she’ll thank him.

“The reason I’m thanking the president is we have had our differences on timing but at the end of the day he acted, he had a lot of options, but he did act boldly,” she said.

The awards will also honor New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Frank Sharry of America’s Voice.

With her speech framed toward the 2016 election, Murguia not-so-subtly hinted at what she wants to hear and see from presidential candidates, like Hillary Clinton, whose shadow looms over the entire field.

“That they can articulate their positions on policy issues that we care about and their campaigns reflect our community in staff, including in their inner circles, and that they’re present in our communities with outreach and messaging,” she said.

“Nobody is going to get by on their past record, we need to understand what they are committed to doing in the future.”

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