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Lend ear to Latino caucus

Marco H. Diaz, state chairman of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly, has a picture of an elephant on his business card. Some would say a more exotic animal would be better — not an endangered species, necessarily, but one that's a little more rare.

Diaz disagrees, however. He thinks Hispanic Republicans are as common as house cats. The problem is, many of them have yet to realize they are really Republicans.

And he has a point.

In values and morals, the Latino population skews Republican in most polls. They tend to be anti-abortion and pro-family. They like the notion of prayer in the schools and the Ten Commandments posted at the Post Office. Yet the Republican Party has had mixed success getting them into its "big tent."

The reasons are many.

First, the Republican right tends to beat up on illegal immigrants with rhetoric that many Latinos feel has a racist undertone. Mainstream Republicans also tend to push against raising the minimum wage, against national health care and other social issues that budding citizens from the South view as a welcome "leg up" in a new land. On top of that, many Hispanic Republicans who are already successful in business and other endeavors — who have worked to integrate themselves into mainstream society — are hesitant to join a group that might make them appear to be on the periphery.

Diaz and his cohorts know all this, of course. And after years of working behind the scenes, they have decided to give the Hispanic Assembly a little more visibility in the community and in the media.

The move is a welcome one.

In a political year — especially one as volatile as this one — the more input the better. A good, strong voice never muddles the choir, but clarifies the sound. In Utah, the Republican Party dominates the political landscape. The broader the input into that big political machine, the better.

According to the Assembly, Hispanic Republicans will soon make up 40 percent of all registered Latino voters. More and more of the state's small-business owners are Hispanic, as are more and more Utah school kids. As the citizens of the state grapple to come to grips with the new wave of Latino immigrants, any information and perspective is much appreciated.

We encourage the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly to stride out and provide that input.

And we encourage Utahns to listen not only to the assembly, but also to any group that helps citizens to understand the growing pressures — and pleasures — of Utah's diversity.