op-ed

Mitt Romney’s ‘right-wing extremism’ on immigration

Tom Tancredo Former Congressman
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Now that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the odds-on favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination, the liberal media is trying to paint him as a right-wing extremist. Last week, The New York Times editorial page used the occasion of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s endorsement of Governor Romney to charge that he has “lurched toward the extremist right.”

What makes Secretary Kobach, and by extension Governor Romney, part of the “extremist right”? Kris Kobach is far from a fringe figure. In addition to being Kansas’s secretary of state, he has a doctorate from Oxford and a law degree from Yale, where he served as the editor of The Yale Law Journal. He also served as a counsel to the attorney general during the Bush administration.

Here’s why The Times thinks Kobach is an extremist:

Mr. Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas, drafted that state’s photo-ID law supposedly to stem fraudulent voting but with the real purpose of suppressing Democratic votes. He is nationally known for drafting statutes, many passed by states and local governments, that usurp federal control of immigration enforcement and aim to make life intolerable for immigrants. He is with the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that wants to reduce legal immigration.

It’s worth looking at each of these charges. The Kansas photo-ID law requires that voters show a driver’s license or other government-issued ID card to vote. That’s hardly an extreme idea. We are required to show such an ID to open a bank account and even to buy over-the-counter cold medicine. According to a Rasmussen poll, 75% of American voters support the requirement, including 63% of Democrats.

The immigration statutes that The Times is referring to include Arizona’s SB 1070 and the various laws that have been modeled after it. Polls show that Americans support SB 1070 by a 2-1 margin. Kobach also authored the Hazleton, Pennsylvania Illegal Immigration Relief Act and the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which require employers to use E-Verify. Last May, the Supreme Court upheld both laws. If Kobach is a right-wing extremist for writing these laws, then so are most United States Supreme Court justices and the vast majority of the American people.

What about Kobach’s association with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)? Because Secretary Kobach’s work has focused on state immigration issues, he has not talked a great deal about legal immigration. However, FAIR is correct to want to lower legal immigration. We currently accept over 1 million permanent legal immigrants and nearly as many guest workers each year. With over 8% unemployment, I can’t think of any reason not to reduce legal immigration.

FAIR is not even a conservative organization. Walter Huddleston, a former Democratic senator from Kentucky, and Richard Lamm, a former liberal Democratic governor of Colorado, serve on its advisory board, as did the left-wing icon Eugene McCarthy before his death. This is not to say that FAIR is a left-wing organization. It’s a big-tent group that unites both conservatives who are concerned about how immigration affects issues such as national sovereignty and assimilation with liberals who are concerned with the effect of immigration on the environment. The idea that anyone who is tangentially connected to FAIR must be a “right-wing extremist” is absurd.

I want to be clear that this is not an endorsement of Romney. If he took the same positions on immigration as Secretary Kobach or FAIR, I would wholeheartedly endorse him. However, simply accepting the endorsement of Kobach does not mean that Romney supports all of Kobach’s positions, much less the parent organization of a group he works for. Romney has also trumpeted the endorsement of pro-amnesty politicians like Jon Huntsman and Mel Martinez, but this does not mean he agrees with them on everything either.

The immigration control organization Numbers USA gives Romney a C+ on immigration issues. To Romney’s credit, he has come out strongly against giving benefits and amnesty to illegal aliens, and he is in favor of employer sanctions and securing the border. However, he has remained silent on many important issues such as ending birthright citizenship, and he has suggested that we need to increase some types of work-based immigration.

Assuming Romney gets the nomination, he will be a big improvement over John McCain and George W. Bush on immigration. But despite the outrage from The New York Times, he still has room for improvement.

Tom Tancredo represented Colorado’s 6th Congressional District from 1999 until 2009. While in Congress, he chaired the bipartisan, 100-plus-member Immigration Reform Caucus. He currently serves as chairman of Team America PAC and The Rocky Mountain Foundation.