The Arizona immigration law that Romney hailed as a “model” for the nation was mostly gutted by the Supreme Court on Monday. The court made it clear that the one key section of the law still standing — the check-your-papers provision — may yet be struck down if it turns out to promote racial profiling and discrimination. Which, in the case of Arizona, where the immigrant-baiting sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, is on a one-man crusade against Hispanics, is more than a little likely.
In Etch a Sketch mode, Romney once said that he wasn’t recommending the entire Arizona immigration statute be copied by other states, just the employment verification parts. But the court invalidated the parts of the law dealing with employment verification — criminalizing immigrants who seek or hold jobs without proper documents, for instance. Oops.
For the last week, Romney ducked and dodged any cogent response to President Obama’s order allowing some 800,000 undocumented youths to apply for work permits — a form of amnesty that enrage the Republican base.
Politically, his motives were obvious. Oppose the president’s move, and he further alienates Hispanic voters for whom the Republican brand is already highly toxic. Embrace it and kiss Tea Party voters goodbye. So Romney devised a neither-here-nor-there stance. Call it The Great Mumble. Asked whether he’d revoke or extend Obama’s order, he said he’d simply preempt it with comprehensive immigration reform.
That would be the same comprehensive immigration reform that both President Bush and President Obama have failed to enact, despite multiple attempts. In other words, Romney’s response to the Obama order was fiction. And not very artful fiction.
Next, we are likely to see more ducking and dodging from the Romney campaign, which will try to explain what it meant, or might have meant, or didn’t mean, when he called the now mostly gutted Arizona statute a “model.” As political messaging goes, it will be great entertainment. But don’t expect anything resembling clarity, coherence or transparency.