Immigration Hardliners Thwarting Romney’s Attempts To Reposition With Latinos
Pema Levy & Evan McMorris-Santoro April 24, 2012, 5:55 PM

Add former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) to the growing list of primary-era Mitt Romney endorsers in need of a copy of “He’s Just Not That Into You.” As Romney’s general election pivot on immigration becomes more pronounced, people like Pearce and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) are being left in the dust while Romney works to boost his standing among Latinos.

But so far, the pair seems oblivious to the fact that Romney is distancing himself from their embrace.

Romney has spent at least a week clarifying earlier comments he made on Arizona, insisting he does not believe SB 1070, which Pearce spearheaded, should be a model for the nation. But Pearce — who endorsed Romney before the Arizona primary — told reporters Tuesday that as far as he’s concerned, Romney “absolutely” believes 1070 could be a national model.
Pearce was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to defend 1070 at a Senate hearing that was boycotted by the GOP. The law, and Pearce by extension, have become a focal point of presidential campaign politics, as the Supreme Court weighs its constitutionality and Democrats using the case to tie Romney to the legislation and the man behind it.

It’s not a particularly tough sell, considering Pearce’s full-throated endorsement of Romney earlier this month, which focused on 1070.

“His immigration policy is identical to mine,” Pearce told the Washington Post. “Attrition by enforcement. It’s identical to mine — enforce the laws. We have good laws, just enforce them.”

But that was back during the Republican primaries, when Romney was running as an immigration hardliner to stave off some of the attacks that he wasn’t conservative enough to be the GOP nominee. Having essentially won that argument, general election Romney has been a lot more willing to step back from the far-right edge of the immigration debate.

On SB 1070, for example, Romney’s campaign insists that he does not think the law should be used as a model for the country as a whole. Rather, the campaign has said Romney was referring to a different state immigration law — one requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to make sure they are hiring only legal workers — when he suggested Arizona should be a “model.”

“Gov. Romney supports the right of states to craft laws that assist the federal government in enforcing immigration laws, particularly when the federal government has failed in its duty to enforce those laws,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul told CNN last week.

But Pearce has either missed those distinctions from the campaign, or is willfully ignoring them.
“Pearce said Tuesday that he hadn’t heard anything to indicate Romney did not believe SB 1070 should be a model,” the Huffington Post reported.

That puts Pearce in a similar position to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, another Romney backer from the immigration hardliner community whose relationship with the candidate is being suddenly downplayed. An architect of laws like 1070 and the immigration law in Alabama, Kobach was once a celebrated Romney supporter. Democrats and Latino advocates have seized on Romney’s ties to Pearce and Kobach as examples of why he won’t be able to close the gap with that electorate.
Kobach has said that a proposal in the works from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to create a GOP-friendly DREAM Act doesn’t pass muster with him. But Romney has spoken favorably on the Rubio plan, though he hedged by saying he has to see the final proposal before he can take a stand.

“I’m taking a look at his proposal,” Romney said. “It has many features to commend it, but it’s something we’re studying.”
The fundamental difference: Kobach wants all illegal immigrants to leave the U.S. before they get a chance at legal immigration. Rubio’s plan (as it exists so far) allows the children of illegal immigrants raised in the U.S. to stay, with legal protections, if they seek higher education or serve in the military.

Kobach said he does not believe Romney would ultimately support such a plan.

“If the bill required the illegal alien to return to his country of origin and get in line for the non-immigrant visa, then that would not be amnesty, and that would be conceivable,” Kobach told the Washington Post. “If it’s extended to people who are here illegally, and they don’t have to leave the country, that would be amnesty.”

It’s easy to see why Pearce and Kobach would be unwilling to accept the notion that Romney wasn’t on the same page as them. Back during a January debate, Romney said he wants illegal immigrants to go home, too.

“The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here,” Romney said when asked what should happen to illegal immigrants already in the country. The remark drew swift criticism from Newt Gingrich, who said it “shows no concern for the humanity of people already here.”

Kobach seems to think nothing’s changed since the heady days when Romney proudly said he was “on the team.”
“I think he can embrace both of us [Kobach and Rubio] and go merrily along to win the election in November,” Kobach told the Topeka Capitol-Journal Thursday.

source: Immigration Hardliners Thwarting Romney’s Attempts To Reposition With Latinos | TPM2012