The Republican primary in South Carolina has turned into a race among the presidential hopefuls to show who is tougher on the undocumented, leading them to take positions that could hurt their chances in the general election when they will need a large percent of Latino voters in order to beat President Obama.
With this goal, the leader of the race, former Governor Mitt Romney, recently secured the support of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is the intellectual force behind the restrictive immigration laws that have been passed in Arizona, Alabama and other states including South Carolina.
Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry have been consumed in a conflict over immigration throughout the primary season. Romney accused the Texan of being weak on the issue because he supported the undocumented by backing that state’s DREAM Act; meanwhile, Perry accused Romney of employing undocumented gardeners to work in his house.
Perry secured the support of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Romney, in turn, got Kobach. it is hard to imagine anyone being more extreme in their zeal against the undocumented than Arpaio and Korbach!
It is unfortunate that the extremism of the Republican base leads to these sorts of positions when there are moderates inside the party who hold positive ideas about immigration reform.
That’s why it isn’t surprising that Newt Gingrich, who suggested that children from low-income homes should clean schools in order to develop good work habit, actually surged forward as the more humane candidate relative to immigration simply by recognizing the obvious that it would be impossible to deport millions of people and that many of the undocumented are honest hardworking individuals who have built lives in the U.S.
Romney’s strategy to win the conservative vote is short-sighted and myopic. Immigration isn’t only a legal issue as suggested by Arpaio and Kobach. It is about people, something deeply felt and recognized within the Latino community.
Romney’s insensitivity, now also characterized by his repeated condemnation of the federal DREAM Act, and his new ally’s aggressiveness towards immigrants can cost the Republicans in the November election unless they are able to re-position themselves ideologically in order to get more than a third of the Latino vote, which they needed to win.
Democrats know this and they are couldn’t be happier with the extremist positions being articulated by the Republicans. No one can blame them for taking advantage of the tremendous mistakes being made by the Republican front-runners. The guilty are those campaigning today in South Carolina.