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The news that the leading anti-immigrant architect in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), has endorsed Mitt Romney for President raises persistent questions about Gov. Romney’s political and policy acumen.
From a political perspective, Lamar Smith joins an illustrious cast of anti-immigrant ringleaders whose endorsements and support Romney has recently welcomed. At least four states with significant Hispanic electorates – Florida, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico – are among the key swing states that will decide who wins the presidency in 2012. Most experts are predicting that Republicans have to win 40% of the Latino vote to defeat Obama. Yet Romney seems intent on proving his anti-immigrant bona fides by talking tough on immigration and associating himself with the leading figures and most extreme legislative components of the anti-immigrant movement – developments he won’t be able to run away from during the general election.
In addition to Lamar Smith, Romney has recently received the endorsements and solicited support from the following anti-immigrant ringleaders:
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Let me get this straight, Mitt Romney now counts endorsements from the leading congressional anti-immigrant figure, Lamar Smith, as well as leading figures behind the passage of the two most extreme state anti-immigrant bills – Alabama and Arizona? For a candidate whose best ‘vote for me’ argument to Republicans is that he is electable in a potential general election match-up, Romney’s recent endorsements seem instead calculated to alienate Latinos and shrink the number of potential battleground states in the process. His full-fledged embrace of the leading lights of the anti-immigrant movement won’t be taken kindly or forgotten by Latino voters. The Obama campaign must be watching with glee.”
According to new polling of Latino voters released by Latino Decisions/impreMedia, 46% of Latino respondents had no opinion or were not familiar with Mitt Romney. As a whole, the Republican Party still faces low approval among Latino voters, and only 22% of Latino voters said they were likely to support the Republican presidential nominee. The polling also showed that Latino voters continue to be animated by the immigration issue, ranking it as the top issue for Washington to address, alongside economy/jobs (both received 42% support as the top issue named by Latino voters). Judging by Romney’s associations, endorsements, and recent rhetoric, don’t expect those numbers to improve.
Separate from the questionable politics, Romney’s embrace of Lamar Smith also raises questions about his policy perspective. Rep. Smith’s desired mandatory E-Verify legislation, which Romney supports, is running into a firestorm of opposition across the ideological spectrum. In the words of the Wall Street Journal, “Conservative, tea-party and libertarian groups have joined liberals in fighting a signature Republican bill in Congress that would crack down on illegal-immigrant workers. The legislation, they argue, would hurt businesses and employees while expanding government regulation.”
Said Sharry, “For a man who thinks that government does little right and should steer clear of burdensome new regulations on business, it’s curious for Romney to embrace mandatory E-Verify and to welcome the support of Lamar Smith, a man proposing ‘government as the solution’ through a new and ineffective Big Brother program like E-Verify.”
For more information, see the America’s Voice report on the 2012 Republican field and immigration: Why Do Elephants Put their Heads in the Sand?
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