It’s been widely assumed that Mitt Romney will moderate his positions on immigration to make inroads among Latinos in the general election, perhaps by supporting some sort of GOP version of the DREAM Act.
But what if Romney has no room to execute any such pivot?
I just got off the phone with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an adviser to Romney on immigration. He stated flatly that he didn’t think Republicans — or Romney — should, or would, support any version of the DREAM Act that provides undocumented immigrants with any kind of path to legal status.
If Romney sticks to this — and Kobach said he would — there’s very little room for him to moderate his approach to immigration. In addition to advising Romney on immigration, Kobach is a national GOP voice on the issue, suggesting the right would not permit any move of this kind.
“I’d absolutely reject any proposal that would give a path to legal status for illegal aliens en masse,” Kobach said. “That is what amnesty is. I do not expect [Romney] to propose or embrace amnesty.”
Romney was overheard at a Florida fundraiser the other day suggesting we need some form of “Republican DREAM Act.” Senator Marco Rubio has also been working on his own version. The Dem DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants in the military or in college. Rubio’s version, which is still being worked out, would stop short of this, but would allow young illegal immigrants who came to America with their parents to apply for non-immigrant visas and to stay to work or go to school. The distinction is between citizenship and legal status.
Such a compromise might enable Republicans to soften their hard edge on immigration and begin making inroads with the crucial Latino constituency. But Kobach drew a sharp line, claiming that any path to even legal status is unacceptable, and said Romney wouldn’t cross it.
“I haven’t seen the details of Senator Rubio’s plan, but if it involves the giving of lawful status to illegal aliens en masse then it is unacceptable,” Kobach said. He also said: “A path to legal status for someone who is here illegally is amnesty by definition. It gives the alien what he has stolen.”
Asked if he thought Romney might embrace such an approach, Kobach said: “I don’t think so...I expect him to hold firm on his opposition to amnesty.”
Separately, a little flap arose yesterday when Politico’s Glenn Thrush asked the Romney campaign if Kobach is still an adviser. A Romney spokesperson told Thrush that he is now merely a “supporter,” leading some to speculate that Romney’s pivot is underway. But Kobach then clarified to Think Progress that he is indeed still an adviser.
Asked to explain the discrepancy, Kobach confirmed to me that the Romney campaign had privately assured him that his status is unchanged. “I’m still providing policy advice on immigration to the governor and his team,” Kobach told me. “I spoke with them yesterday afternoon, and they confirmed that nothing has changed.”