Our guest blogger is Henry Fernandez, a Senior Fellow at the Center For American Progress Action Fund working on state and municipal issues.
During his 2007-8 run for President, Mitt Romney switched from historically supporting immigration reform to being against it, championing a mass expulsion plan that he acknowledged would not work. Romney was so right-wing on immigration, that he enthusiastically accepted the endorsements of anti-immigrant ideologue and former Congressman Tom Tancredo and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, now under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of Latinos.
As a successful businessman who recently joined the board of the heavily immigrant-reliant Marriott hotel company, Romney has apparently learned that appearing anti-immigrant or anti-Latino is politically foolish in a country where Latinos and Asians have grown to 11% of the vote. He has now flipped again and is calling for the Republican Party to support comprehensive immigration reform and to pass such a bill right away. The Hill interviewed Romney and reported yesterday:
Romney believes that one way to attract more minorities to the GOP is to pass immigration reform before the next election, saying the issue becomes demagogued by both parties on the campaign trail. “We have a natural affinity with Hispanic-American voters, Asian-American voters,” he said.
Romney should know about demagoguing on immigration. He did it himself.
During the campaign, Romney thought his anti-immigration postition would help him with Republican primary voters. Ironically, it cost him the nomination when he ran head long into the diversity of the Republican Party in Florida. While John McCain did not beat Romney among white voters in the Florida primary, McCain crushed him among Latino Republicans, effectively ending both Romney’s campaign and the primary.
As I noted at the time, Romney’s hard line position on immigration was beyond hypocritical. His own family’s immigration history was to put it modestly, “unique.” His great grandfather immigrated in apparent violation of both US and Mexican laws to Mexico when the US government cracked down on polygamists. Three generations of Mitt’s ancestors lived in Mexico, his father was born there, and he has family which still resides there. What brought his grandparents back to the US were impacts of the Mexican Civil War. To be clear — like many more recent immigrants, Mitt’s immediate family immigrated to the US from Mexico because of increasing violence and changing economic conditions.
The fact the Republican Party was hijacked by anti-immigrant extremists has been obvious for some time. Republicans torpedoed the Bush-McCain-Kennedy immigration compromise bill in 2007 for fear of an extremist backlash. Conservative commentators like Richard Nadler have described how this led to a major shift in Latino and immigrant voters away from the GOP. In turn, states like New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, and North Carolina flipped to Obama as Latinos, Asians and immigrants shifted their votes and came out in large numbers to vote.
Hopefully “Multiple Choice Mitt” has found his final answer.