Following his win in the New Hampshire presidential primary, Mitt Romney announced today that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) endorsed his campaign. Kobach is the anti-immigrant official who drafted Arizona and Alabama’s harmful immigration laws, and who once wrote a book opposing the anti-Apartheid boycott of South Africa. “With Kris on the team, I look forward to working with him to take forceful steps to curtail illegal immigration and to support states like South Carolina and Arizona that are stepping forward to address this problem,” Romney said in press release.
Earlier in the campaign, Romney had sought the endorsement of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who eventually endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry. With Kobach’s support, Romney reinforces his anti-immigrant stances heading into South Carolina, where officials are facing court challenges to the state’s own anti-immigrant law. Kobach praised Romney in a press release:
“We need a president who will finally put a stop to a problem that has plagued our country for a generation: millions of illegal aliens coming into the country and taking jobs from United States citizens and legal aliens, while consuming hundreds of billions of dollars in public benefits at taxpayer expense,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. “Illegal immigration is a nightmare for America’s economy and America’s national security. Mitt Romney is the candidate who will finally secure the borders and put a stop to the magnets, like in-state tuition, that encourage illegal aliens to remain in our country unlawfully.”
Kobach’s statement that Romney would actually “put a stop” to progressive state immigration laws which provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants is a great deal more radical than Romney’s previous statements. Romney has left no doubt that he thinks state laws providing this opportunity to the undocumented are wrong, but Kobach now appears to be suggesting that Romney would wield the full power of the federal government’s authority to preempt state laws in order to invalidate existing pro-immigrant laws in the states. This doesn’t just fly in the face of the GOP’s supposed love affair with the Tenth Amendment, it would strip many undocumented residents of states like Texas, who already pay in-state tuition to public universities, of a right they presently enjoy.
Moreover, Kobach’s endorsement marks Romney as well outside the mainstream on immigration policy. When Kansas voters elected Kobach — the chief architect of Arizona’s extreme anti-immigrant law SB 1070 — as secretary of state, state Democrats pushed legislation to stop Kobach from “continuing legal work for city officials and legislators across the country who want to crack down on illegal immigration.” But as secretary of state, Kobach helped with Alabama’s immigration law that was even more harmful that the one Arizona officials approved. And Kobach has promised to push for stricter immigration policies in his own state during the 2012 legislative session, like requiring workers to use the federal E-Verify system to check their workers’ immigration statuses.
Romney, facing criticism for not being conservative enough on several issues, has tried to outflank many of his opponents on the right when it comes to immigration.
Yet surprisingly, Romney’s harsh immigration stance has been largely overlooked in the press. After one GOP debate in November, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom essentially conceded that his candidate’s position was to make immigrants’ lives unbearable to force them to leave. And last week the Obama campaign dubbed Romney the most extreme GOP candidate on the immigration issue.
Romney recently vowed to veto the DREAM Act if he becomes president, which would deny undocumented students the chance to come out of hiding and get a college education or serve in the military. In response, a group of six DREAM Act students recently confronted Romney at one of his events. He refused to respond to the students as he was rushed of the room by security.