Is Mitt Romney Anti-Immigrant?

by Bob Quasius

Is Mitt Romney anti-immigrant? The answer is both yes and no, and it depends on which way he and his advisers think the wind is blowing that day. Jon Huntsman correctly labeled Mitt Romney a “well lubricated weather vane.” Here’s a video that highlights Mitt Romney’s numerous flip-flops. Only one thing is for certain…Mitt Romney in no way shape or form is a consistent conservative!

Mitt Romney has been all over the place on immigration reform and many other issues. Mother Jones noted a few months ago:

As governor, Romney vetoed a state-level DREAM Act that would have granted in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students and pushed for a larger role for local authorities in enforcing federal immigration laws. But he also stuck up for Bush’s comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2005, defending the president from charges of pursuing “amnesty.” In 2006, Romney said Republicans opposing Bush on immigration had “made a big mistake.”

Then, of course, Romney started competing with Senator John McCain, an immigration moderate, for the 2012 GOP nomination. The ex-governor tried to thread the needle between attacking the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill as “amnesty” and currying favor with the White House, which was trying to get a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed. Romney called McCain’s proposals “reasonable” in 2006, but by 2007 he was on “Meet The Press” trying to explain that although he supported granting a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants. How that was somehow different from the “special pathway” McCain’s bill would have created is unclear.

Lately, as most of us know, Mitt Romney wants all undocumented immigrants to “return home and get in the back of the line“, using the cynical term “self deportation.”

However, this isn’t a practical solution as there never was a line for most undocumented immigrants to stand in, and if they’ve been unlawfully present for more than a year as an adult not only would they have to leave the U.S., but they’d have to wait ten years to even get into line, due to a 1996 law (3/10 year bars to admissability). If they are not close family of U.S. citizens, they are so far removed from the preference categories there is near zero chance of ever immigrating. Note, even if they have U.S. citizen children, their children have to be 21 to sponsor their parents.

Undocumented immigrants are not going to leave the U.S. voluntarily under Mitt Romney’s plan, and if he wants them to leave mass forced deportations will be required, also not a practical solution unless we’re prepared as a nation to ravage whole sectors of our economy and create a humanitarian nightmare, damaging our reputation as a civilized nation for the world to see. We presently have the capacity to deport 400,000 immigrants per year, and already we treat immigrants in detention worse than criminals. What would happen if we made a serious effort to deport 11 million?

I can’t look into Mitt Romney’s heart to know whether he truly is anti-immigrant. Due to his flip-flops I think he’s just pandering to extremists. However, due to the perceptions Romney has fostered, he might just as well be anti-immigrant due to his recent harsh ‘enforcement only’ positions, and praising and campaigning with immigration extremists. Romney actively sought the endorsement of the infamous Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County Arizona, where aggressive immigration enforcement has resulted in severe racial profiling of Latinos.

A recent DOJ racial profiling study conducted by an outside expert found Latinos are up to 9 time more likely to be stopped by police, and 20% of Latino traffic stops lacked any probable cause. In other words, ‘driving while brown’ will attract police attention ‘like flies to honey’ in Maricopa County, Arizona. Many Latinos nationwide have experienced unwarranted and pre-textual traffic stops, and it’s a constant source of complaints. According to a 2008 PEW Research study, almost 10% of adult Hispanic drivers had been stopped over the previous year and asked their legal status.

Recently Romney received the endorsement of Kris Kobach, a leader of a well known anti-immigrant hate group whose founder has written extensively about eugenics (selective breeding of humans), and made many derogatory remarks about Latinos. Romney praised Kobach as the author of innumerable state and local immigration laws, which with great regularity are struck down by the courts because they are flagrantly unconstitutional, and fuel bigotry against immigrants and those perceived as immigrants. Usually the taxpayers are stuck with legal bills totaling millions of dollars, not just their own legal bills but the plaintiff’s too! I’ve often implore GOP politicians to distance themselves from immigration extremists and haters, but unfortunately Mitt Romney didn’t get the message.

Obama has already stated: “We may just run clips of the Republican debates verbatim. We won’t even comment on them, we’ll just run those in a loop on Univision and Telemundo, and people can make up their own minds.”

In a November Latino Decisions poll, Romney’s support among Latinos was just 24%, and that was before his “self deportation” comment. Only 14% of registered Latino voters believe deportation is the solution to illegal immigration, according to a recent Latino Decisions poll, so it stands to reason that with the negative ad blitz we can expect from Obama, Romney’s Latino support will be capped at around 15%. Latinos are not single issue voters, but immigration runs a close second as an issue, and moreover how language about immigration is framed is important too.

A recent tweet by Leslie Sanchez, a prominent Republican political consultant and author of Los Republicanos, reveals why Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are taking different approaches.

Mitt Romney’s steering committee is heavily overweighted with 70% Cuban-Americans, who strongly tend to take a hard line on immigration reform, due to the fact that Cuban refugees almost always receive refugee status upon arrival in the U.S. (‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy), and don’t experience the same hardships as other immigrant groups. Puerto Ricans are automatically citizens, and for similar reasons immigration is a less pressing issue for Puerto Ricans. Of course many of our Cuban-American and Puerto Rican brothers support immigration reform, just not in the same percentages as other groups that are more directly impacted by immigration policy.

According to PEW Research, 32% of Florida’s registered Latino voters are Cuban-American, and another 28% are Puerto Rican, as compared to 5% and 14% nationally. It stands to reason Romney will do better among Florida Latinos than among other groupings. However, nationwide Cuban-Americans are only 5% of the Latino population, and there is a similar percentage of Puerto Ricans. On the other hand, Mexican-Americans are 59% of the Latino population, and combined with the other 22% of Latinos who lack any special consideration, are heavily impacted by our broken immigration system. Latino Decisions recently published a poll explaining the nuances.

Nationally, the eventual GOP nominee will need to do much better than than 15%. According to Matthew Dowd, former adviser to Bush:

Matthew Dowd, another one-time adviser to Mr. Bush, said that in 2000, he calculated that Republicans needed to win 35 percent of Hispanics to beat Democrats. He said that given the steady increase in the number of Hispanic voters, he now believed Republicans needed to win a minimum of 40 percent to be competitive with Democrats.

I don’t think Mitt Romney himself has any personal animus against immigrants, but his positions are readily perceived as both anti-immigrant and impractical. When you start talking about policies that will rip families apart, then you will be perceived as anti-immigrant, and anti-family too. Romney has taken such a hard line on this issue that it will be hard for him to soften his stance during the general elections. George Soros says there’s not much difference between Obama and Romney. Obama’s failure to even offer immigration reform as promised, combined with record levels of deportations has made him unpopular among Latinos. It’s predictable that conservative and moderate Latinos and others will ‘hold their nose’ and vote for Obama as the lessor of two evils.

Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, already has a much more pragmatic approach to fixing immigration. To be sure, his plan has room for improvement, but at least he has made an honest effort, and as former speaker of the house with a track record of accomplishment working across the aisle, there’s a much better chance that Gingrich can make immigration reform finally happen. Gingrich is also poised to appeal to far more Hispanic voters than Romney, after years of engagement and outreach.

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