Last night was the official first start for the 2012 race to the White House, and as we expected the issue of immigration was never far from the limelight.
Without a doubt, Mitt Romney’s recent promise to veto the DREAM Act was the biggest news out of Iowa. Speaking to a crowd in Ice Cream Capital of the World, Le Mars, Iowa Romney said, “The question is if I were elected and Congress were to pass the Dream Act, would I veto it and the answer is yes.”
Last fall, Lionel Sosa, a Republican strategist who worked for George W. Bush and John McCain, predicted to the New York Times that Romney “can make as many trips to Florida and New Mexico and Colorado and other swing states that have a large Latino population, but he can write off the Latino vote. He’s not going to gain it again.”
Romney’s statements on DREAM – while maybe the final nail in his Latino Vote coffin – weren’t the only immigration take-a-way from Iowa. Rick Perry raised some eyebrows by romping around the state with America’s Worst Sherriff, Joe Arpaio back in December.
Despite the fact that Perry admittedly did not know the details about the Justice Department’s charges against Arpaio, Perry said, “I would suggest to you that these people are out after Sheriff Joe,” He went on to say, “He is tough. And again, when I’m the president of the United States, you’re not going to see me going after states like Arizona or Alabama, suing sovereign states for making decisions.”
In the final days before the Iowa caucuses, Santorum made yet another attempt to appeal to the far right on immigration by calling himself “a Steve King guy on immigration.” But no one ever expected that Santorum to be good on immigration, or win the Latino vote (or win the GOP nomination.)
But a recent Pew Hispanic Center report showed that, “84% of Latinos favor granting in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrants.” Over 91% favor the DREAM Act.
Christina Costantini of the Huffington Post wrote,
“At nearly every mention of immigration, Santorum invokes the beauty of the “American melting pot” and his own identity as the son of an Italian immigrant. Simultaneously, Santorum is insistent that drastic measures be taken to strengthen border security and stays safely ambiguous on what should be done with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here. He says, “we’ll have that discussion [after]” the border is secured.”
Costantini also points out that:
“Latinos account for 16.3 percent of the U.S. population, but only 5 percent of Iowa’s populace — making the state an imperfect testing ground for Santorum’s popularity with the important voting block. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that Latinos represented about one tenth of eligible voters in 2010.”
So, Iowa is over. But, the debate about immigration is only beginning.