Can a non-Hispanic join Hispanic caucus?

An interesting debate is roiling within the U.S. House of Representatives involving whether a non-Hispanic lawmaker can join the House Hispanic Caucus.

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke represents El Paso in the House. His district is 80 percent Hispanic; its voting population is nearly 78 percent Hispanic. O’Rourke, a Democrat, goes by a nickname — Beto — that is popular among Hispanics.

He’s not a member of the caucus, though, because he’s Irish.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, established in 1976, has operated under this rule that requires its members to have at least partial Hispanic heritage. Therefore, O’Rourke, who’s fully Anglo, doesn’t qualify.

He contends that El Paso needs a Hispanic voice in Congress. Those who oppose the rule change do offer an interesting argument: O’Rourke knows his district well enough to have been elected to represent it; in fact, he defeated a longtime Democratic lawmaker, Silvestre Reyes, to win the seat. He’s sufficiently schooled in the needs of his district to represent its interests in the House of Representatives.

What, precisely, is the point of including him in the Hispanic Caucus? At least that’s the argument being offered as to why the caucus need not change its rules for membership.

The Congressional Black Caucus has an ethnicity requirement. The Asian-Pacific Caucus, though, does not.

Which direction should the Hispanic Caucus go? Time will tell if a young Irish-American member of Congress can join its ranks.


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