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Immigration Remains A Dicey Issue For Romney, GOP

At a Republican candidates' forum in Wisconsin before the state's primary earlier this month, a speaker who wasn't on the ballot had strong words for the GOP regarding its low standing among Hispanic voters.

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign stop on April 18, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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Above: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign stop on April 18, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"The way the party ... talks about immigration is going to impact the future course of this party and the future course of this nation," said former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the first Hispanic to hold the nation's highest law enforcement post.

Gonzales didn't mention any candidate by name, but during the Republican primaries, none staked out a tougher position on immigration than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"Of course we build a fence, and of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who come here illegally," Romney said at a debate in Tampa last year. "That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America's great beneficence."

In another debate, Romney touted his 2006 agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to allow Massachusetts State Police troopers to enforce immigration laws to, as he put it, "make sure those people who we arrest are put in jail, to find out they're here illegally, we're going to get them out of here."

It might be a position designed to win votes in Republican primaries, but it hurts the party in the long run, Gonzales said in an interview with NPR.

"Anything you say, any campaign position you take, there are going to be consequences," he said. "I think given the current trajectory, if there's not a change in course, the consequences are not going to be good ones for a Romney presidency, at least with respect to Hispanic votes."

The GOP Message

In recent days, there have been hints of a change of course. The Republican National Committee announced an expanded outreach program targeting Hispanic voters in states with large Hispanic populations, like New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina.

The RNC posted an online announcement about the effort, and prominent Hispanic Republicans in Congress, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, are speaking out.

"I am concerned, because there is this growing demographic in America who I think — at a minimum — we should be competitive in and we're not," Rubio said at a forum in Washington sponsored by the National Journal magazine. Rubio, a Cuban-American, is widely viewed as a potential running mate for Romney.

"I think what needs to happen is a permanent commitment that we are going to take the time and energy in the long term to make this argument about why limited government and free enterprise is the right answer to their desires [and] their aspirations," he said.

Rubio is also trying, however, to soften his party's image on the issue of immigration by proposing an alternative to the White House-backed Dream Act.

'Stay The Course'

But some of Romney's backers are urging him not to soften his stand on immigration. Kris Kobach, the secretary of state in Kansas and an aggressive proponent of strong immigration laws with strict enforcement, says Romney should "stay the course" on his immigration position.

The way the Romney campaign has described Kobach — who helped write the controversial Arizona law, SB 1070, that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court this week — gives some clues as to how it is wrestling with immigration. Early on, Kobach was an "adviser"; more recently, he was just a "supporter," according to the campaign, and now he's called an "informal adviser."

Citing a recent survey from Quinnipiac, Kobach says that among independent voters, 48 percent favor Romney's position on immigration versus 33 percent who favor President Obama's position on immigration.

"Clearly he's winning with Independent voters by taking a law enforcement-oriented approach, and independent voters will decide who becomes president in the fall," Kobach says.

Whether Romney keeps his previous hard line on immigration now that his nomination seems assured remains to be seen. On Monday, he campaigns with Rubio in Pennsylvania, but on Friday he did more listening than talking when he met with Hispanic business owners in Arizona.

One thing does seem clear: Both he and the Republican Party want to shift the focus away from immigration, hoping to win votes with the argument that Obama's handling of the economy has been bad for the country and for Hispanics.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | April 23, 2012 at 7:49 a.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Like most politicians, of either party, Romney hasn't done his homework on immigration (documented or otherwise), let alone putting it in its proper historical context. I fhe had, he would understand the dynamic, that punitive measures will only fail.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | April 23, 2012 at 11:29 a.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Apparently illegal immigrants are good enough to manicure Willard's lawns on the grounds of his mansions.

I'm sure Willard will flip-flop on this issue like he has many others in a pathetic attempt at securing Latino votes, but let's not forget the positions Willard took in the debates.

They are pretty radical.

When old man Gingrich said he favored allowing illegal immigrants who have been here over 25 years and have ties to the community a legal way to stay (not citizenship), Willard made it clear he wouldn't even support that.

Willard Romney outlined an extremely hard-line approach on all illegal immigrants, regardless of their personal circumstances.

Willard also favors deportation of all illegal immigrants, and given this is impossible it's clear he's just spewing cheap campaign promises he has no intention of ever fulfilling.

Now that the general election is coming, Willard will try and backtrack because he wants Latinos to vote for him.

Equally as offensive as his chronic flip-flopping is his crude use of Marco Rubio as a pawn to get Latino votes. Does this dope really think simply having one prominent Latino involved in his campaign is going to undo all his anti-immigrant comments and make Latinos one out in droves to support him?

Prince Willard Romney has no core, no principles, no shame. He's jut an empty suit who says whatever he thinks peope want to hear at any particular time.

His insincere flip-flopping and pandering will continue to be rampant on this and many, many other issues as the general election draws near.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | April 24, 2012 at 8:12 a.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

As much as I dislike Romney for other things, I have to agree that immigration enforcement is needed. I wish the discussion could focus on legality and corrective measures not ethnicity. As far as I know, the policy does not target Hispanics specifically, but rather persons of any background who violated immigration rules. African, Asian, Caucasian or Hispanic, the law should be equally applied to all.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | April 24, 2012 at 9:58 a.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

BENZ, wishing that it doesn't rely on ethnicty is like wish for a perfect world. One only needs to read some the hostile comments on this or other websites.

But what do you mean by "corrective measures"? Is not the Federal Government already spending enough money on this already? Never enough for the Nativist Right, of course, who calmours for more government from one end of their mouths and no taxes on the other! I image what you mean is punitive measures. And this will not work nor is it working. Push-pull factors need to be addressed not puitive measures.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | April 24, 2012 at 10:43 a.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Law (in general, and hopefully in all the specific cases we will discuss here) does NOT rely on ethnicity. I do wish for a perfect world, but do not remotely expect to live in one. My comment was meant to draw attention to the ethnocentric distraction from the core issue.

I would only look for punitive measures to be applied to lawbreakers. Do you think there should be some different criteria?

If you believe the core issue should be ethnic political solidarity then I suppose this is the article in which to discuss it. Do you think that voting bloc will be able to force open the gates and end the attempts to control immigration? If they can, do you think they should?

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | April 24, 2012 at 12:34 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Benz, you say you like Willard's current stance on illegal immigration, but he has basically admitted he supports maintaining the status quo.

Politician after politician claims they want all illegal immigrants deported, but none ver do it.

They **can't** do it.

It's tactically, economically, and legally imposile (by legal I mean racial profiling concerns would tie any door to door effort up in out).

So basically Willard is simply telling the anti immigrant crowd wht they want to her with no intention of doing anything. What about *that* do you like?

If you want immigration laws enforced, I would think you would support Mr. Obama. Under him, deportations have increased well above the levels of his predecessor.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | April 24, 2012 at 1:59 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

1) I didn't say I liked his policy, I said I agree with the specific statement that increased enforcement is needed. I haven’t read his policy and therefore can’t endorse it.

2) You are correct, we will never get them ALL. I'm OK with that. We are never going to catch all the litterers either. What we do need to do is make sure littering is sufficiently disincentivized that we heavily deter people from dumping garbage in the streets.

3) As for feasibility, I don't see that as a legal issue, but rather a social one. If one had to prove legality with every interaction of a government representative then there is no profiling issue. ALL police contact has a verification component. ALL marriage license applications check for legal residence. ALL... &c. To touch on a related subject… you can check at government funded hospitals as well. Shut off government access (and the benefits that go with it) and the self deportation incentive will strengthen. We don’t want to go kicking in doors and dragging out people by their hair. Fortunately we don’t have to.

4) I do support the increased enforcement of federal law under Obama, though his AG may want to leave the Arizona law alone to avoid being counter-productive. Really I couldn't care less whose keister warms the oval office chair so long as signatures on appropriate laws and good policies issue from the desk in front of it.

5) Romney may very well be pandering. I suspect he (and all politicians on the national stage) do quite a bit of it. I think it is sad, but don't expect better behavior until we voters stop demanding it. What I do like is that we are talking about an enforcement solution. What sort of enforcement solution do you favor, and why?

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