History Repeats Itself as Romney Takes a Hard-line on Immigration
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney once tacitly supported immigration reform. Sadly, his recent embrace of hard-line immigration positions is a show we’ve seen before with Sen. John McCain in 2008, and it targets the fastest-growing demographic in the country. With his new stance, he risks losing not only the Latino vote but many non-Latino voters as well.
In the last few weeks we’ve seen Romney take a hard right-turn on immigration, first telling an audience that he would veto the DREAM Act if president, and then accepting the endorsement of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the author of Arizona’s S.B. 1070, and Alabama’s H.B. 56, among a slew of state and local anti-immigrant bills.
Remember that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had been a strong supporter of immigrants and in turn had received overwhelming support from Latinos in his home state before running for president in 2008. He was the creator and driving force behind the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, and he supported the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform attempt before talking tough on immigration in order to stay competitive in the Republican primary.
Latino voters caught on quickly to Sen. McCain’s political doublespeak on immigration. The GOP’s share of the Latino vote, which George W. Bush had raised to 35 percent in 2000, and at least 40 percent in 2004, was reversed, and only 31 percent of Latinos voted for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008.
Moving into the 2012 election cycle, a number of recent polls illustrate that Romney will go the way of McCain, and continue the GOP’s slide with Latino voters, if he continues down the anti-immigrant path.
The (d)evolution of Romney’s immigration views
Mitt Romney’s position on immigration has meandered for years, but today his hard-line stance is clearer than ever.
In a 2005 interview with the Boston Globe, Romney talked about Sens. McCain and Edward Kennedy (D-MA)’s comprehensive immigration reform bill as “reasonable proposals.” And just months later he told the Lowell Sun that he didn’t believe in the mass deportation of the 11 million undocumented persons living in the country.
In the heat of the 2008 primary, however, candidate Romney’s stance on immigration hardened. He presented GOP supporters at the Reagan Library debate with a gradual mass deportation scheme whereby recently arrived undocumented immigrants would be deported immediately, and those that had been here for a long time and were raising kids could have sufficient time to “organize their affairs and go home.”
But that wasn’t all. He also proposed building a border fence and calling on undocumented immigrants to “get in line with everybody else who wants to come here.” A month later, Romney brought his endorser Kris Kobach, at the time the general counsel of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (an anti-immigrant hate group), on as an adviser on border security and immigration issues.