18 April 2012

Romney campaign softens US immigration rhetoric

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Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is making efforts to soften his conservative, and often austere, stance on US immigration by demoting the well known immigration enforcer, Kris Kobach, from 'adviser' to 'supporter'.

US immigration

Mitt Romney (top) has demoted Kansan Secretary of State Kris Kobach (bottom) from 'immigration adviser' to 'supporter'.

Mr Romney has promoted a tough stance on US immigration throughout the campaign and even endorsed what is seen as the toughest immigration law in the country, Arizona's controversial SB 1070 law, as a ‘model for the nation’.

However, now the nomination is all but secured for the former Massachusetts governor, the focus of Mr Romney's campaign is moving from the Republican base he can rely on, to the crucial votes in the so-called 'swing states'.

Many commentators see the growing Hispanic population as a crucial demographic in the race for the White House and, as many Hispanics have significant ties to Latin America, immigration is particularly pertinent to gaining their vote.

In 2008, President Obama secured a vast majority of the Hispanic vote by promising whole scale immigration reform yet his failure to do so in his first term has left many thinking the vote could be up grabs.

In an effort to appeal to these voters, Mr Romney has demoted his onetime immigration adviser, Kris Kobach, from adviser to supporter. The Kansan Secretary of State was one of the main authors of not only Arizona's tough immigration law, but also Alabama's HB 56, considered even tougher than Arizona.

Mr Kobach has consistently promoted an extremely hard line on immigration, favouring policies of 'self deportation' or 'attrition through enforcement' where conditions for illegal immigrants are made so hostile they choose to leave.

Mr Kobach's proposals are currently the subject of legal challenges by the Obama administration and will come before the US Supreme Court in the summer.

However, in January, Mr Romney said: "We need more conservative leaders like Kris willing to stand up for the rule of the law."

"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."

Political analysts have expressed doubt about the Republican Party's ability to wrestle the Hispanic vote from the Democratic Party, and therefore possibly win the White House, if Mr Romney's original stance on immigration is continued.

In line with these efforts, Mr Kobach has been effectively removed from the Romney campaign and many are expecting Mr Romney to request Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the most visible Hispanic member of the Republican Party, to become his vice presidential candidate.

Mr Rubio has spoken frequently about his own party's inability to offer any movement from its tough stance on immigration and is also believed to have formulated a Republican alternative to Obama's stalled DREAM Act, which would provide children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

President Obama still enjoys a healthy lead over Mr Romney in the polls of Hispanic votes yet his majority could begin to slide as the former governor's views soften.


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