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Immigration Activists, Reform Leaders and Pundits Slam Mitt Romney’s Embrace of Kris Kobach

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romney and kobachEarlier this primary season, notorious Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio chose to endorse Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, a show of support we warned the governor was toxic and damaging to his candidacy.  Two weeks later, the Department of Justice announced that it had completed a civil rights investigation on Arpaio and found him to be “engage[d] in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.”  What did we tell you, Rick Perry?

Now it’s former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s turn to learn what happens when you don’t learn from history.  Last week, Romney gleefully accepted the endorsement of Kris Kobach, a virulently anti-immigrant (and anti-gay, and pro-apartheid) leader who wrote state laws designed to drive immigrants out of Arizona and Alabama.  Romney was scheduled to campaign with Kobach in South Carolina on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday – as in, the national holiday designated for celebrating the man who said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  This despite us warning him that the move was tone deaf, and certainly no way to work toward gaining the 40% of the Latino vote he needs to win in order to capture the White House.

On a press call yesterday, pro-immigration reform leaders discussed this puzzling move in the Romney campaign strategy and its impact on a potential general election match-up between Romney and President Obama.  From Rep. Luis Gutierrez, United States Congressman (D-IL) and leading immigration reform advocate:

On the day we observe Martin Luther King’s birth, Mitt Romney and the Republicans are campaigning in the Deep South to restrict the civil rights of immigrants and to continue our nation’s neglect of immigration reform based on the fantasy that 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants could, should, or world leave the United States…boy does it make it crystal clear to Latino voters what is at stake in this election.  Mitt Romney can surround himself with all the Cuban Republicans in the world — and he will be doing exactly that in Florida — but the stink of the anti-immigrant positions he is taking will not rub off.

From Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union: 

Mr. Romney  has proven that he is not only ignorant about the Latino community, he is ‘un candidato de dos caras,’ a two-faced candidate.  He says one thing in English and another thing in Spanish.  Apparently, Mitt believes that because he is speaking in English, Latinos will not catch on to his real agenda.  Unfortunately for Mitt, Latinos do speak English and he is not going to get away with talking out of both sides of his mouth. 

In addition to adding Kobach as a part of his South Carolina voter outreach strategy, just last week Romney sent out mailers touting his hardline immigration positions.  According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director here at America’s Voice:

It’s repugnant that today, on Martin Luther King Jr.’s commemorative day, someone like Kris Kobach would be embraced by a major political figure in America.  Kobach says he supports Romney because he is the furthest to the right on immigration and on that we agree.  Romney has promised to veto the DREAM Act and has become a champion of attrition through enforcement.  We believe this will have serious political consequences for Mitt Romney. He is making a huge political error that will haunt him in the general election.

Clips from across the news and blog world today further hammered Romney.  From Digby:

This takes some chutzpah. Or should I say “huevos”…It looks like we’ve got a new form of the Southern Strategy in place…there’s always a way for white supremacy to make its case, isn’t there?

From Karoli at Crooks and Liars:

In classic Romney-esque fashion, it’s difficult to tell where Mitt Romney stands on illegal immigration, since he is running ads in South Carolina which are anti-immigrant, anti-Latino ads, while running Spanish-language ads in Florida talking up his Latino endorsements there. He’s flipping at the very same time he’s flopping.  With a public appearance in South Carolina with Kobach, I’m sure Mittens plans to sew up the xenophobe vote there, but it’s hard for me to believe this will play well with Latino voters nationwide….All indications are that Mr. Romney is at least as extreme in his views as his friend Mr. Kobach.

Albor Ruiz at The New York Daily News wrote:

Something is certain: Come November, if Romney becomes the GOP choice to oppose President Obama, Latino voters will have no mercy for him at the polls. Unfortunately, without 40% of those votes Mexican Mitt has as much chance of becoming president as hell has of freezing over.  No “El Presidente Mitt” anytime soon…

From Tamar Jacoby, a Republican immigration specialist who has advised Arizona Senator John McCain and former U.S. House Speaker (and presidential candidate) Newt Gingrich:

The conventional wisdom and the general fear is right, that some Republicans, and some of the most important Republicans with the loudest microphones, are digging a very big hole for themselves that’s going to be hard to get out of.  [Romney] is unfortunately taking one of the harshest tones.  I have some hope for a course correction, but I think right now, for many Latinos, all they can hear is that off- putting first statement that really translates into, ‘We don’t like people who look and sound like you.’

At Think Progress:

Romney’s views on immigration are radical even in a field of candidates who appear to be competing to take the most radical views on this subject. But as extreme as Romney’s immigration stances have been, campaigning with an anti-immigrant official with ties to a hate group on Martin Luther King Day is beyond the pale.

From an editorial in La Opinion

Romney’s insensitivity, now also characterized by his repeated condemnation of the federal DREAM Act, and his new ally’s aggressiveness towards immigrants can cost the Republicans in the November…Democrats know this and they are couldn’t be happier with the extremist positions being articulated by the Republicans. No one can blame them for taking advantage of the tremendous mistakes being made by the Republican front-runners. The guilty are those campaigning today in South Carolina.

And from Maria Teresa Kumar, the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Voto Latino:

Mitt Romney is taking his playbook straight out of Meg Whitman’s campaign for Senate, where she was speaking to the Latino community in Spanish while she had Pete Wilson whispering in her ear…Latino voters can watch Telemundo, then switch back onto MSNBC because we’re bilingual… Latino voters have in recent years ended the careers of Sharron Angle, Russell Pearce very recently, Meg Whitman, Pete Wilson…I would caution Republicans against continuing to beat up on the Latino community.

It also certainly won’t help Romney to keep opposing the DREAM Act and promising to veto it, as he did again at a debate in South Carolina last night.

In short, Mitt Romney is bear-hugging the very positions, and people, that could contribute to his downfall in November.  And if that happens, we’ll certainly be there to say “I told you so…”


Link to Recording of Yesterday’s Call

Media Matters,Meet Kris Kobach: Lawyer for The Anti-Immigrant Movement

Southern Poverty Law Center profile of Kris Kobach

Center for New Community, “10 Reasons Why Mitt Romney Should Reject Kris Kobach’s Endorsement

Think Progress,Romney Campaigning With Anti-Immigrant Official With Ties to Hate Groups On Martin Luther King Day