Milbank: Romney Carries Heavy Baggage on Immigration Issue
Aficionados of the Etch a Sketch will recall a certain flaw in the toy: If you use it often, some of the lines drawn no longer disappear when you shake the device, leaving an indelible trace of where you have been. This is the problem Mitt Romney is encountering: He is trying to erase impressions left during this year’s primary contest, but he can’t shake away the image of Russell Pearce.
Pearce, the former Republican president of the Arizona Senate, is the author and self-described “driving force” behind that state’s law — endorsed by Romney — cracking down on illegal immigrants. Pearce told The Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez this month that Romney’s “immigration policy is identical to mine,” and he told reporters this week that Romney “absolutely” gave him the impression that he saw the Arizona law as a national model.
Democrats, seeking to use this loose cannon against his own side, called Pearce to testify Tuesday before Congress on the eve of the Supreme Court’s review of the Arizona law. Republicans boycotted the hearing, sensing a political trap. But Pearce is less aware, and he handled himself in just the manner Democrats had hoped. Enhancing the effect, his tie bore the “Don’t Tread on Me” emblem of the Tea Party.
Pearce, who lost his seat last fall in a recall election, labeled the Obama administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “unpatriotic.” He sounded the alarm about an “invasion of illegal aliens we face today — convicted felons, drug cartels, gang members, human traffickers, even terrorists” (never mind that border security has improved and violence has lessened). And he blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on “the failure to enforce U.S. immigration laws” (omitting the fact that the hijackers entered the country legally).