Immigration a Trouble Spot for Romney, GOP

MItt Romney and Mark Rubio speak to the media.

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to the media before a campaign stop with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in Aston, Pennsylvania. Photos: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

Don Gonyea reported on Monday’s Morning Edition on the difficult position Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney finds himself in regarding immigration. That position is only exacerbated by the fact that the Republican party has an admittedly spotty record when it comes to courting — and keeping — Latino voters.

At a Republican candidates’ forum in Wisconsin before the state’s primary earlier this month, a speaker who wasn’t on the ballot had strong words for the GOP regarding its low standing among Hispanic voters.

“The way the party … talks about immigration is going to impact the future course of this party and the future course of this nation,” said former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the first Hispanic to hold the nation’s highest law enforcement post.

Gonzales didn’t mention any candidate by name, but during the Republican primaries, none staked out a tougher position on immigration than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“Of course we build a fence, and of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who come here illegally,” Romney said at a debate in Tampa last year. “That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America’s great beneficence.”

In another debate, Romney touted his 2006 agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to allow Massachusetts State Police troopers to enforce immigration laws to, as he put it, “make sure those people who we arrest are put in jail, to find out they’re here illegally, we’re going to get them out of here.”

It might be a position designed to win votes in Republican primaries, but it hurts the party in the long run, Gonzales said in an interview with NPR.

Listen to or read the full story on NPR by clicking here.