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Kris Kobach Continues to set the Immigration Agenda for the GOP, Despite Concerns from Prominent Republicans

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Kris KobachApparent by its party platform, the reins of the Republican Party’s immigration policy are in the hands of hardliners, led by anti-immigrant legal architect Kris Kobach. Ahead of this week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, some prominent Republican politicians, Party strategists, and conservative observers spoke out against the GOP’s hardline drift on immigration, recognizing the issue’s role in the GOP’s current low standing with Latino voters.

However, despite the words and warnings of these important voices, encapsulated below, Kobach continues to drive the Party’s immigration agenda. In addition to his role as the Romney advisor who persuaded the candidate to infamously embrace the concept of “self-deportation” and his successful push for the RNC’s 2012 platform to include a Draconian set of immigration proposals, Kobach last week filed a lawsuit seeking to block the implementation of the DREAMer deferred action program that will allow hundreds of thousands of young aspiring citizens to get a temporary work permit and continue achieving their goals.

Given the influence of Kobach, it’s little wonder that Romney and the Republicans continue to struggle with Latino voters. The first installment of a weekly tracking poll from Latino Decisions/impreMedia finds that President Obama leads Mitt Romney by a 65%-26% margin among Latino voters nationwide and that “more than half of Latinos (56%) think the Republicans are ignoring or do not care about Latinos and 21% consider them downright hostile towards them. This includes 57% of Latino Republicans, who think their party is not doing a good job in attracting them because they do not care.” Additionally, Spanish language media outlets have been paying close attention, highlighting the hardline immigration stances adopted by Romney and the Republicans and making it unlikely that the upcoming convention will allow the Romney campaign to push the reset button with Latino voters.

Below are some of the Republican and conservative voices speaking out against the GOP’s embrace of hardline immigration stances. Unfortunately, judging by measures of influence, Kobach’s vision continues to reign supreme:

  • Jeb Bush Offers Warning on Immigration: Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Florida Governor Bush stated in regards to Latino voters and immigration, “My personal view is that we need to get beyond where we are…You can’t ask people to join your cause and then send a signal that you’re really not wanted. It just doesn’t work…We need young, aspirational people to come to our country so that we can grow over a sustained period of time at a high rate that will allow us to create jobs without raising taxes, balance the budget, do all the things that we want to do…So changing the debate to those issues is, I think, [what] the majority of Americans wants. Now…is it a useful tool politically for some Republicans to stay focused on the political issue, the wedge issue? It might be, I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s right for our country.”
  • Jon Huntsman on Republican Need to Get Right on Immigration: Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former Utah Governor and Republican presidential contender Huntsman writes, “The party should champion a plank that will enhance economic growth by embracing immigrants. The situation has changed radically from 2007, when President George W. Bush’s effort to reform our immigration laws collapsed in Congress. People aren’t crossing our borders—legally or illegally—as they once were, because there are fewer jobs available. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Mexican immigration may have actually reversed in 2011, with outflows surpassing immigration to the U.S. While lack of opportunity is reducing the low-skilled illegal population, those who are already here need to be brought out of the shadows of a nation they are already a part of. Most important, the debate must move away from illegal immigration toward immigration as a cornerstone of economic vitality.”
  • Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff Calls for Romney and GOP to Distance from Kris Kobach: According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s Attorney General and Republican delegate Mark Shurtleff said of the RNC platform on immigration, “We all know how important the Latino vote…This kind of thing does so much harm to the party.” Referring to Kris Kobach, AG Shurtleff said, “He shouldn’t be kept around…They need to distance themselves from him.”
  • Former GOP Strategist Dan Schnur on California’s Cautionary Tale for National Republicans: Dan Schnur, former Republican political strategist and current head of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said to the Los Angeles Times, “National Republicans have made a calculated decision, for about 20 years now, that it’s worth writing off states like California in exchange for a secure base of support in the South and in the near West [Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states]. But California’s demographic makeup isn’t nearly as unique as it was in the 1990s…Romney’s advisers make the case that Latinos are much more interested in the economy than in immigration. That may be true. But if voters don’t think that you respect them as human beings, they’re not going to listen to what you have to say about the capital gains tax or start-up loans for small business.”
  • Conservative Columnist Ruben Navarrette on Republicans’ Missed Opportunity with Latinos: Navarrette takes notice of the prominence of anti-immigrant leaders and candidates like Kris Kobach, Joe Arpaio, Pete Wilson, and Meg Whitman at the RNC and writes how these associations overshadow the prominence of Hispanic speakers at the RNC: “And just when it appears as if Republicans might actually have a shot at reaching Mitt Romney’s stated goal of getting the support of 38 percent of Hispanics — which would probably be enough to win the White House — because of President Obama’s heavy-handed immigration policies, the party of Lincoln fails to take advantage of an opponent’s weakness and once again snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. The GOP brand is contaminated in the Southwest with naturalized Mexicans and native-born Mexican-Americans who represent the lion’s share of the Latino vote. And by bolting to the right during the Republican primary season, Romney made things worse…For a while, it looked like Romney could mend some fences by presiding over a convention that has been loaded up with prominent Hispanic conservatives…This makes the party look inclusive. But with Republicans, it’s always one step up, and four steps back. In this case, the four steps are represented by four other people were also given important roles at the convention — despite the fact that all four are personae non gratae in the Latino community.”