DALLAS -- Lauro Garza, head of Somos Republicans, the largest organization of Latino conservatives in Texas, has quit the Republican Party because of what he described as the anti-Latino rhetoric of GOP leaders.
"There is no place for Latinos in the Republican Party", Garza, who had identified as a Republican for 30 years, said in Spanish.
Garza said he made his decision after Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain proposed building an electrified fence across the U.S.-Mexico border that could kill those crossing illegally. Cain also called for an armed military presence on the border and the use of real ammunition against immigrants.
"What Cain said contradicts the Constitution and shows how we were infiltrated by nativist ideas highly hostile towards Hispanics and immigrants," said Garza, who made his decision and spoke to The Huffington Post on Friday. "I am not going back to that dump until the party goes back to the principles held under Ronald Reagan."
The Republican Party leadership has been ceding to the influence of the Tea Party, which has fundamentally altered the GOP, and has allowed messages of hate and intolerance against Latinos, Garza said.
"They don't want Latinos in the party or in the country. They don't want immigrants or the undocumented,” Garza, a retired police officer and detective, said of the party. “They think that step by step, they can make [Latinos] disappear like in Arizona, Georgia and now in Alabama."
And the hard-line against immigrants could hurt Republicans in the upcoming presidential election, Garza warned.
Garza said it is not okay to discriminate based on race or ethnicity. “I was born here; I live here; and I speak perfect English. I look Latino because I am of Mexican origin, but I will not be discriminated against because of that."
Chris Elam, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas, told the Austin American-Statesman on Friday that state GOP leaders never discussed the idea of an electrified a border fence.
"Most Republicans I know are a little more thick-skinned" than to take offense and leave the party because of Cain's controversial remarks, Elam said.
Garza is a political veteran, and had been considered one of the more militant and better known leaders of the Texas Republican Party. He said he had received many calls from Republicans throughout the country inquiring about his resignation.
Garza said he is still a conservative, but considers himself an independent, not aligned with the GOP.
"The Republican Party has turned radical and unreasonable," he said. It was unacceptable, he added, that party members applauded and GOP leaders did not condemn Cain's remarks when Cain twice defended the the idea of killing of innocent migrants while discussing his an electrified border fence proposal GOP leaders did not condemn the remarks.