Meet Mitt Romney’s Immigration Advisers

Of all the GOP candidates, Mitt Romney staked out the most extreme immigration positions during the Republican primary. He said his immigration plan would be to make undocumented immigrants “self-deport,” and he vowed to veto the DREAM Act. Since he effectively locked up the nomination, however, Romney tried to distance himself from his earlier hardline stances, and a Republican Party official even tried to claim that Romney is “still deciding what his position on immigration is.”

But Romney is still losing among Latino voters by an enormous (and widening) margin. While Romney has tried to moderate his immigration views from the primary to the general election, his immigration advisers and supporters still include extremely anti-immigrant officials.


Currently serving as Kansas’ secretary of state, Kobach is the author of harmful state and local anti-immigrant ordinances like those in Arizona, Alabama, and South Carolina. He wrote the vast majority of them as senior counselor to the restrictionist Immigration Reform Law Institute and as a private consultant. He has insisted that Romney wants SB 1070 as a national model, and he doesn’t expect Romney to soften the extreme immigration positions he took during the GOP primary. And following President Obama’s directive to halt deportations for up to 1.4 million young undocumented immigrants, Kobach called the policy “illegal.” Kobach advised Romney’s 2008 campaign on immigration and homeland security, and he returned to that role for the 2012 election after he endorsed the GOP presidential candidate in January. In April, Romney tried to distance himself from Kobach while softening his immigration positions, saying he was a “supporter,” not an “adviser” before conceding that Kobach was still an “informal adviser.”


After the former Republican California governor endorsed Romney, the presidential candidate named Wilson honorary California chair of his campaign. In a statement touting the endorsement, Romney said, “I’m honored to have Governor Pete Wilson’s support, because he’s one of California’s most accomplished leaders.” As governor of California, Wilson prominently supported Proposition 187, an anti-immigrant ballot initiative that made unauthorized immigrants ineligible for public services such as health care or public education. California voters approved the measure in 1994, a precursor to Arizona’s SB 1070, before courts declared it unconstitutional in 1997.


The former Arizona Senate president, who was ousted in a recall election, was the architect of Arizona’s infamous SB 1070. He threw his support behind Romney and said that the GOP presidential candidate’s “immigration policy is identical to mine.” And Pearce said Romney “absolutely” called for Arizona’s law to be used as a national “model” because Romney has advocated for self-deportation. “[Self-deportation] is in SB 1070,” Pearce said in April.


Citing only Romney’s “pro-business background” and his “political history,” Arizona’s nativist Republican governor endorsed Romney ahead of her state’s primary in February. Brewer is one of the nation’s most anti-immigrant governors, and she signed SB 1070, the first of a wave of anti-immigrant bills authored by Kobach.


After President Obama announced the directive to halt deportations for DREAM Act-eligible young adults, Romney refused to say whether or not he would undo the policy. But Walser, a co-chair of Romney’s campaign for issues pertaining to Latin America, said he thought Romney would get rid of it. “My anticipation is that he would probably rescind this directive were he to be elected in November,” he told The Daily Telegraph. He added that the decision would match up with the “very tough” positions Romney had taken on immigration. Walser is a senior policy adviser at the Heritage Foundation who spent 27 years working for the U.S. State Department.


The Texas Republican, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, became one of Romney’s earliest congressional endorsers in October 2011, choosing to back the former Massachusetts governor over Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Smith has pledged to not hold a hearing on the DREAM Act in his hearing, which Romney vowed to veto.