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Pablo Pantoja, the State Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee, has switched his affiliation to the Democratic Party due to the GOP’s “culture of intolerance.”

In a letter posted to The Florida Nation, Pantoja cited the Heritage Foundation’s widely-panned recent study on immigration reform, and co-author Jason Richwine’s history of racial bias as a reason for his decision. Richwine has asserted that Hispanics are inherently less intelligent than America’s “white native population,” among other offensive claims.

“It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today,” Pantoja wrote.

“Studies geared towards making – human beings – viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate,” he continued, in reference to the Heritage Foundation report.

“Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance,” Pantoja wrote. “The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.”

Pantoja’s defection represents another strike against the Republican National Committee’s plan to soften its image and attract more Hispanic and Latino voters in future elections. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus says that the GOP “must be inclusive and welcoming” to Hispanic Americans, but the fact that his own organization couldn’t retain its Hispanic outreach director in one of the most important swing states in the nation bodes very poorly for that goal.

More trouble may be coming down the pike for the GOP’s outreach plan. The Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill is currently coming under fire from Republicans who oppose the reform, and if it passes the Senate it will certainly generate a heated debate in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. If the does ultimately pass the House, it will likely do so in violation of the “Hastert Rule,” with very little Republican support.

Image: DonkeyHotey via Flickr.com

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