07 February 2012

Romney adds US immigration hardliner to California campaign team

Mitt Romney, front runner in race to challenge Barack Obama in November, has raised further questions over his stance on US immigration policy after naming a former Californian Governor, and famed immigration hardliner, as honorary chairman of his Californian campaign.

American visa

Mitt Romney's immigration policy has attracted criticism.

Pete Wilson, who served as Governor of California from 1991 to 99, was announced by Mr Romney as a chair of his California campaign on his website. The announcement has already been met with some criticism due to Mr Wilson’s crackdown on US immigration during his time as governor.

However, Mr Romney has defended his decision to appoint Mr Wilson, saying he is "honoured to have Governor Pete Wilson's supports, because he's one of California's most accomplished leaders."

Mr Romney, a successful and wealthy businessman, has consistently claimed his professional success has provided him with the capability to serve as president during tough economic times, something he says, influenced his decision to appoint Mr Wilson:

"As Governor of California from 1991 to 1999, [Mr Wilson] led California from the depths of recession to prosperous economic recovery."

Mr Romney also touted the endorsement of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who helped to draft and implement some of America's toughest immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama.

Despite Mr Romney's attempts to refocus his campaign on economic reform, his relatively tough stance on immigration, which has already come under scrutiny, is only likely to be criticised further with the appointment of Mr Wilson.

Many within the US political system have called for a comprehensive reform of the immigration system, with many supporting more lenient approaches to who is granted an American visa, who is allowed to remain in the country and how borders are patrolled.

Eliseo Medina, an advocate for immigration reform, said the appointment of Mr Wilson was "an alarming pick among Latino voters who remember the political damage Wilson caused when he served as governor.

"American voters are witnessing a disturbing trend through Romney's preoccupation with anti-immigration officials. His pick of Wilson is consistent with his support of Kris Kobach. Not only has Kobach campaigned with Romney, he's also an unpaid advisor to Romney's campaign."

The growing number of Latino and Hispanic voters in American states is considered a vital demographic for any presidential hopeful to appeal to. However, as many Latinoes have strong ties to countries with high numbers of illegal immigrants, the Republican Party's typically tough stance on immigration has alienated voters in the past.

"Mitt Romney obviously does care about the Latino voters her will be facing in November if he wins the GOP [Republican] nomination," said Mr Medina. "He seeks the advice of Kobach and embraces the endorsement of Wilson, ignoring the harm that both Wilson and Kobach have to immigrants, their families and their friends."

Mr Romney has continually stated that he only opposes illegal immigration and supports legal migration.

Mr Wilson, endorsing Mr Romney, said Mr Romney is "the leader we need to rescue this great nation from the tragedy of a second Obama term that threatens grave and perhaps irreparable harm to both our economy and our national security."

The Californian primary will be held in June as one of the last before a candidate is officially nominated by the Republican Party in August.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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