A Q&A with Frank Mendez, new chair of the Minnesota Hispanic Republican Assembly

The Minnesota Hispanic Republican Assembly, one of the affiliates of the state party, has a new chair, Chanhassen businessman Frank Mendez. Although the group has played a limited role in the party’s decisions, it carries greater clout this election cycle as immigration issues have dominated the debate among candidates for the GOP nomination for president.

In an interview with MinnPost, Mendez defended the party’s arguments for border security, which he says many Hispanics support. But he also said when it comes to improving relations with Hispanic voters, Republican leaders need to break down the barriers to a voting bloc of people “who don’t look like them.” 

MinnPost: Why did you decide to take on the role of chair of the Hispanic Assembly?

Frank Mendez: I saw that the Hispanic community was basically being pursued by the Democratic Party. I decided to reach out. I thought, I’m Hispanic. I need to get involved in helping the Hispanic community be aware of Republican goals and dreams and values. And the best way to do that was to join an organization that declares itself in support, like the Republican Hispanic Assembly.

MP: You are giving a talk next week to the Minnesota Senior Federation titled, “What Hispanics really think about border security, sanctuary cities and Donald Trump.” Are you suggesting there is no consensus on these issues?

FM: I’m suggesting that the Hispanic community is in flux with respect to some of these issues. The flux is among mostly among non-citizens that we have here and we have to be sensitive towards any immigrants who are here. At the same time, we have our rules and regulations as to what citizenship is and what procedures we should take. The Hispanic voting community is totally in support of strong border security and not having sanctuary cities.

MP: Why is border security so important to you?

FM: A border is a border regardless of what nationality it is. There are rules that allow your entrance into whatever country you want to go into. It’s actually a back door invitation for people to not comply with them if you are not going to enforce them. The issue is homeland security. Those that are here and have become U.S. citizens understand. They are no longer Salvadorans, no longer Mexican. They are Americans.  

MP: What about Donald Trump’s remarks about Mexicans?

Frank Mendez
Frank Mendez

FM: I truly believe that he misspoke. He doesn’t script what he has to say and he says what’s on his mind. I’m not a mind reader but I can look at his history to say … you need to clarify that statement. I think he has to be more careful about dealing with issues and the problems that stem from those issues instead of directly picking on individuals and people. I would not say anything negative about him because that would then be taking it to a personal level and that’s the mistake he made when he started talking about the border issues. 

MP: Do you support the path to citizenship proposals that would allow illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to attain citizenship?   

FM: That’s after the fact, that’s after securing the border.  The issue for me is border security. After that has been done, then it’s fruitful to go on to step two and three. But it’s difficult to move on that [path to citizenship] quickly because you are dealing with people who are already here.

MP: How are you going to try to make the Minnesota Republican Hispanic Assembly more politically potent?

FM: The key here is for the Republicans to identify with the Hispanics as just another group of people who don’t look like them but have the same heart, desires, spirits, and dreams. It’s a matter of getting people to reach out. We need some who is not Hispanic to open the door and say, come on in. That’s the key. My goal is to get one more Hispanic Republican voter in every precinct in the state. That could have the effect of changing some elections.

MinnPost: Has the Republican Party — in Minnesota and nationally — done enough to reach out? 

FM: I think they’re beginning to understand they need to do it more. The bottom line is we need to have more people educating the Republican Party to things that they can do and to promote the Republican brand.

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by lee wick on 07/31/2015 - 12:20 pm.

    Trump Misspoke but Stated Fact

    I don’t see how Trump can advance too far but his message was there are bad people living in the USA illegally. No party can deny that but all they want to talk about is how Trump said it. Three gruesome murders by bad actors in July, that have been nationally reported. The press has used the false argument more crimes have been committed by legal citizens.

    Please fix the immigration system! We need good people to grow our economy. Government is failing in many ways and this is one.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/31/2015 - 12:23 pm.

    Self inflicted wounds

    The immigration issue is purely a self inflicted wound caused by politicians because the Hispanics that come across the border are cheap labor, and good for business. It was and is caused by political inaction, plain and simple. The Hispanics are a very valuable resource for the big agriculture businesses in California, Florida, Minnesota and wherever crops are raised and need to be harvested. This has been going on so long that now the Hispanic’s have had children, who are now American Citizens. Grand standing on “no amnesty” the politicians are all acting like they didn’t have anything to do with this problem, when “they created it”. Morally the kids can’t remain and the parents be sent back to their country of origin. The problem needs to be figured out and figured out soon or it is going to do nothing but get worse. Now is the time to force the politicians into action. We’ll see who has the courage to take a stand during this election cycle.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 08/07/2015 - 09:55 am.

      Exactly

      It’s a great issue for demagogues, but when I lived in an agricultural town in Oregon and later in Portland, it was pretty obvious where the Latino day laborers gathered to be hired by employers.

      I got a hint of what kinds of wages they were offering once when I was riding the bus past the convenience store in Portland where the laborers gathered. A Latino man boarded the bus, and another Latino man greeted him in Spanish, which I understand well enough to have followed this conversation:

      “Hey, I thought you had a job for today!”
      “No, that ______ only wanted to pay $2.00 an hour. Two dollars an hour!.”

      If politicians were serious about stopping illegal immigration, they would work on the demand side by levying crippling fines on employers, followed by forfeiture of the business for repeat offenders. But some of the major users (and the term “users” is deliberate) of illegal labor are also some of the biggest contributors to politicians.

      By the way, the native Oregonians of my acquaintance talk of being hired for agricultural work, especially berry picking, when they were teenagers.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/31/2015 - 01:08 pm.

    Unasked Question

    “How many members does the Minnesota Republican Hispanic Assembly have?”

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 08/01/2015 - 07:19 am.

    Living down by South Padre Island in the winter most legal immigrants want a stronger border. They understand too many drugs and bad folks are coming across daily. Beef up the border with more fences, more policing and more enforcement and make work permits more available but also more traceable. It can be done by not by the current political folks running the show. As soon as you say you are for a strong border you are labelled anti-immigrant. Everyone one even Mexican Americans want legal immigration, but in today’s political climate to say it means you are a bigot.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/01/2015 - 10:52 am.

    This guy is NOT speaking for the Hispanic Community.

    I don’t know why conservatives always feel the need to declare the they represent the majority when in fact they rarely do. And what is this business about “voting” Hispanics? Is that code for “legal”? At any rate Hispanics will speak for themselves when they vote in the next election, and will not likely reflect Mr. Mendez’s perspective.

  6. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 08/02/2015 - 12:19 pm.

    A Very Hard Sell For The GOP

    It is going to be a hard sell getting the Hispanics to think the Republicans offer anything in their interest. You can’t badmouth the Hispanics and expect to see them come flocking to your side. The Republicans have been fans of the Hispanics, but the only reason they have been fans is because they represent hard working, cheap labor. George W. Bush’s response about Hispanics was they, Hispanics, will do the jobs no one else will do. Political inaction is why we have the immigration problems. Why has there been political inaction? Because the Hispanics are a valuable resource for big business, plain and simple. Now something has happened the politicians didn’t plan on. The Hispanics had children that are now American Citizens. The problem is now larger than building a bigger fence and the longer the politicians wait the problem will only get that much more intense. What GOP candidate is going to have the courage during this election cycle to deal with the immigration problem? My guess none of them beyond lip service or the common brush off of “now is not the time to deal with that”. The GOP circus continues.

  7. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 08/02/2015 - 08:18 pm.

    Is Mr. Mendez in favor of criminal felony charges against any

    Business entities and their officers that hire illegal immigrants? Just as important, or more than the “2000 mile fence” idea

  8. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 08/03/2015 - 05:06 pm.

    Always amused

    If only the GOP would be a little more understanding “liberal” of other peoples issues, ideas, troubles etc. then ………..
    Something like can’t change those spots?

    Securing the border rings of Gorbachev and Regan, the great GOP communicator/leader: Mr. Gorbachev “Tear down this wall”, Now what is the great GOP theme: “Build up these walls!”
    No it really isn’t funny its pathetic!

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/03/2015 - 10:43 pm.

      Wage Pressure

      From what I understand, you would like to increase the wages for people with low academic capability and/or technical skills. Correct?

      Yet you would like to keep ~11 million low cost laborers in the US and keep the border wide open for more to come? Please help me understand the logic here. There are ~5 Billion people who would be better off financially if they could get into America.

      On the upside, this seems to be an area where questionable business owners and the far left agree. Personally I want the border secure so that we can encourage more legal immigration, allow only people that meet the legal criteria, show respect to those who follow the process, etc.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 08/06/2015 - 06:58 pm.

        Lets see!

        Don’t recall anything in my comment about increasing wages.
        Don’t recall anything about keeping 11 Mil low cost workers either.

        Seems: A comparison/analogy was made to a statement Regan a Republican made, vs. the Republican chant of today.
        The challenge was to philosophically explain the significant difference between the Berlin wall and the Southern Border wall? The claim is: both sets of folks want to be free and live a good life in a land of opportunity. All yours JA.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/07/2015 - 07:40 pm.

          Freedom

          Please remember that Mexico is a Democracy, not a communistic oligarchy. Also, the USA will still encourage legal immigration, communications , trade, relations, etc. With this in mind I see the Berlin wall and the Mexican walls as very different things.

          http://www.coha.org/democracy-in-mexico-the-past-present-and-future/

          Let’s say there are ~5 Billion people in the world that would love to move to the USA. How many of them do you want to invite and how fast? Do you want them to stand in line, get back ground checks, etc or do you just want them to run across the border?

          I would prefer orderly controlled immigration. If nothing else, to treat those who are following the process with respect. (ie no line budging allowed…) And if we really want to increase starting wages, it may be a good idea to reduce the number of people who can do those jobs to the legal citizens.

          By the way, are you pro-NAFTA or con-NAFTA?

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