Romney’s endorsers cut both ways on immigration
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has used immigration as a major wedge issue against his foes for the Republican presidential nomination.
Staking out a tough stance on border security and criticizing benefits for undocumented immigrants, Romney has sought to contrast himself with Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, who have taken a more balanced approach on the issue in an effort to lock down support from the elusive conservative base.
On Monday, Romney campaigned in South Carolina with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of Arizona and Alabama’s controversial immigration crackdown laws. That push could help him politically in South Carolina, where there is strong support for their state’s Arizona-style law and whose eligible voter base is only 1.4 percent Latino.
A wide array of Republican officials have endorsed Romney, the race’s front runner, but not all of them agree with his position on immigration. Below, Univision News highlights ten individuals who support the former Massachusetts governor, showing they have a wide array of views on the issue.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach:
Kobach is known as the legal architect of the Arizona and Alabama laws. The federal government has challenged both laws in court, arguing they are discriminatory against Latinos.
Before his current post as Kansas secretary of state, Kobach worked as a legal staffer at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigration group that’s been accused of harboring nativist attitudes. by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Romney campaigned with Kobach in South Carolina less than one week before the state’s critical GOP presidential primary.
“We need more conservative leaders like Kris willing to stand up for the rule of law,” Romney said in a statement last week. “With Kris on the team, I look forward to working with him to take forceful steps to curtail illegal immigration and to support states like South Carolina and Arizona that are stepping forward to address this problem.”
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas):
Smith is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and is the chief sponsor of legislation that would make E-Verify mandatory for all U.S. employers to check the legal status of employees.
The bill is backed by Romney but is opposed by Democrats and several House Republicans. It has not passed the House.
The congressman endorsed Romney in Oct. 2011.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
Rohrabacher is a staunch opponent of illegal immigration. He was a chief proponent of California’s Proposition 187 in 1994, a state ballot initiative that barred undocumented immigrants from accessing social services. The initiative sparked a divisive debate in California and was unpopular within the Latino community, though it passed by a wide margin. The bulk of the proposition was later found to be unconstitutional.
The congressman backed Romney during his 2008 presidential campaign as well, citing the fact he was to the right of the eventual nominee, Sen. John McCain, on immigration.
“Romney is going to be someone who tries to get control of the illegal immigration across our borders,” he said four years ago. “We’re coming into a lot of economic troubles Romney has some private sector experience, especially in building economies and corporate jobs.”
Rohrabacher endorsed Romney again in Dec. 2011.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R):
Haley is a first-term governor who is considered a rising star in the party and her endorsement was coveted by nearly all the GOP candidates.
Last year, Haley signed an Arizona-style immigration law. A federal judge in the Palmetto State last month blocked key sections of the law, including language that would allow local law enforcement to “with ‘reasonable suspicion’ to detain any person the officers believe is in the United States illegally,” according to CNN.
Haley endorsed Romney in Dec. 2011.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman:
Romney’s former rival endorsed him on Monday, saying that he has the best chance to defeat President Obama.
Huntsman and Romney, however, have vastly different views on immigration. The ex-Utah governor was the only GOP candidate to fully support the federal DREAM Act, which would allow some undocumented children of immigrants to obtain a pathway to citizenship via college education or military service.
The “Three Amigos”:
A trio of influential Cuban-American Republicans from South Florida, Reps. Ilenaa Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart announced their support from Romney in late November.
The three lawmakers were among eight House Republicans who voted for the DREAM Act in Dec. 2010.
“I do disagree with Gov. Romney’s stance on immigration, but I think the guiding force for this election at this time, and especially here in South Florida, is the economy,” Ros-Lehtinen told Univision News at the event.
As President George W. Bush’s commerce secretary, Gutierrez was the chief liaison between the administration and Congress on the president’s 2007 immigration reform effort.
“You know that I’ve always taken a position in favor of immigration reform and I would like to see a more comprehensive debate,” he said in an October interview with Univision News anchor Jorge Ramos. “Because, what we get is talking points: close the border and … we have to control the border.”
Gutierrez refrained from criticizing Romney’s position on the issue, saying the former Massachusetts governor is a “strategic thinker” who will address immigration in an appropriate manner.
“I’m advising him on trade policy, not immigration. But as you know, if my opinion is asked, I will give it,” he said.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Earlier this month, McCain endorsed his bitter rival from the last GOP presidential primary, when Romney tried and failed to emerge as the conservative alternative to the Arizona senator and eventual nominee.
McCain came under fire from conservative Republicans, as well as Romney, for sponsoring a comprehensive immigration reform bill with liberal Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 2007. That led to some testy exchanges on the campaign trail.
“In the case of Gov. Romney, you know, maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes, because it’s changed in less than a year from his position before. And maybe his solution will be to get out his small-varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn. I don’t know,” McCain said in May 2007.
But McCain later backed away from his support for comprehensive immigration reform. The most telling moment happened in 2010, when he appeared in an ad for his Senate reelection campaign with Pinal County (Ariz.) Sheriff Paul Babeu in which he called for a robust border security plan.
“Complete the danged fence,” McCain said.
McCain also voiced support for his state’s immigration law, which Kobach helped author.