As the state’s Hispanic population continues to increase, Gov. Scott Walker is requesting Mexican officials open a consulate in the state.
Walker sent two letters to Eduardo Medina Mora, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto earlier this month, which were hand-delivered to both officials Friday.
The Hispanic population in Wisconsin is estimated at 6.2 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Milwaukee County, the Hispanic population makes up 13.9 percent of the county.
“Wisconsin is experiencing a growing Hispanic population and with that comes a demand for consular services,” Walker wrote in the letter to Mora.
Currently, the consulate office in Chicago, which is one of the 50 Mexican consulate offices in the U.S., serves both residents of Indiana and Wisconsin, Walker said in the letter.
Professor Steve Stern, a UW history professor specializing in Latin America, said creating a consulate in Wisconsin is generally a good idea so more residents can better access a consulate in their area.
“The large principle of expecting and wishing for an expansion of consulates given the increase of internationalization of the U.S. population is in principle a good idea,” Stern said.
Mexico was also the second-largest exporter for Wisconsin-made products in 2012, in addition to many Hispanic businesses accounting for economic growth in Wisconsin cities, according to Walker’s statement.
Professor David Canon, a UW political science professor, said Walker’s emphasis on the economic importance of a consulate could also help attract voters typically outside the Republican Party.
“It does seem this would be a move in the direction of something from the Karl Rove report after the 2012 election, where Rove and other Republican leaders said the Republican Party needs to do more to expand its base and appeal to Latino voters,” Canon said.
Walker’s request is likely to receive national attention if he intends to run for national office in 2016, Canon said.
However, openly favoring the immigration bill currently moving through U.S. Congress could also give Walker national attention, Canon said, but it is possible Walker does not want the same political consequences as other Republican leaders, like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Texas.
“Marco Rubio tried to do that six months ago and got hammered by the conservative base of the party, who saw him as being a traitor,” Canon said. “Walker would look at what happened to Rubio and think, ‘That’s not such a good idea.’”
Stern said he could not speak to Walker’s reasons for requesting a consulate.
Calls to Walker’s office were not returned.