Can Romney count on Hispanic entrepreneurs?

By Jose Pagliery

For some Hispanic entrepreneurs, Mitt Romney forces a tough decision.

As small business owners, they like Romney’s call for fewer regulations and lower taxes. But some are turned off by his embrace of hardline Republican Party views on illegal immigration.

One of those is Al Preciado, a real estate broker who, by most standards, would be a prime target for Republicans.

Preciado has long leaned right on taxes and regulation. He strongly supported Ronald Reagan in 1980.

And as the co-owner of Precision Title Agency in Glendale, Ariz., Preciado lists his chief concerns as money and profitability. But to him that means addressing undocumented immigrants — by providing those here illegally with a way to stay.

“They occupy three to four million homes across the country. If we got rid of them, the homes go vacant,” Preciado said. “We’d have people using less gasoline, buying less of everything. How can you tell me that getting rid of them will help the economy grow?”

Preciado, whose grandparents came from Mexico a century ago, said deporting undocumented immigrants also violates his social values, another reason he can’t bring himself to vote for today’s Republican candidates.

Nearly all Hispanics are children of immigrants or newcomers themselves. Some, then, are uncomfortable with Romney’s vow to complete the U.S.-Mexican border fence and opposition to amnesty for the estimated 11 million here illegally.

Polls show that President Obama, who has supported immigration reform and a path to citizenship for some people here illegally through the Dream Act, holds a steady lead with Hispanics overall.

Of course, the immigration issue is not always a deal breaker. For example, Romney’s experience in private equity resonates with Abraham Abramovich, whose main gripe is regulation.

Abramovich employs 29 people at several gas stations and car wash centers in Florida. Just one of his gas stations — albeit his most troublesome one — requires 27 licenses.

“It’s amazing what you have to do,” Abramovich said. “That’s the biggest handicap I have to running the business.”

To resolve that, Abramovich is willing to put aside his worries about the delays and difficulties of the country’s immigration system. As a Peruvian who traveled to the United States several times before finally making this his home, he supports the Dream Act and hopes for an immigration policy overhaul. But that can wait.

On the other end of the spectrum is health insurance broker Steve Cabrera, who endorses deportations of undocumented immigrants.

“Yeah, we’ll miss all that money,” Cabrera said. “But we can then close down one-third of the schools. The upside will outweigh the downside of losing their consumerism.”

Cabrera’s own father endured a years-long bureaucratic journey out of Ecuador and into the United States, and there’s no reason others can’t bear with the same, he said. (Related: More coverage of immigrant entrepreneurs)

As for his support of Romney, the owner of Cabrera Financial said he’s drawn to Romney’s experience in the private sector and his promise to repeal health care reform and lower corporate taxes.

Then there’s Miami caterer Liz Fernandez, who co-owns Gobsmack Sweets, a mini-cheesecake bakery in Miami. She’s sure to vote for Romney but has reservations.

She was raised Catholic and conservative by Cuban parents, and she’s always gone Republican. But Romney’s stance on illegal immigration conflicts with her sympathy for undocumented immigrant women whose work in the United States provides for families back home.

“I’m torn,” Fernandez said. “I’m a single parent. I know what it’s like to work two jobs and support your kids. I’ve seen the hard workers that come in. You give up so much to give your family a better life.”

this Op-ed appeared originally on CNN Money line on 6/5/12

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