Tales from the Trail

Romney changes style – not substance – on immigration

Mitt Romney took a dramatically softer tone on immigration in his speech to Latino officials on Thursday than his harsh rhetoric on this issue during the primary campaign, but the likely Republican presidential nominee’s remarks fell flat with immigration advocates, who want him to offer solid policy suggestions and are wary of his past tough line on the issue.

Romney tacked hard to the right on immigration during his nomination fight, as he sought to woo conservative Republican primary voters from rivals who took more moderate positions. During the primary campaign, Romney endorsed an Arizona state law giving the police expanded powers to stop anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, which many Latinos view as racial profiling. He also called for the “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants and promised to repeal the Dream Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants brought into the country as children, if the measure were to pass Congress.

But the audience for the general election on Nov. 6 is more moderate on immigration than Republican primary voters. Romney also came under pressure to offer proposals on immigration when President Barack Obama announced a plan on Friday that will let hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people to avoid being shipped home.

“The political environment now requires that he say something sympathetic to immigrants. The political environment during the primaries required that he say something negative. Where he actually stands is still a mystery,” said Jennifer Gordon, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and expert on immigration law.

“Clearly, after Obama issued his order last week, it was on Romney to step up and say something,” she said.

Arizona immigration law controversy hits border governors’ conference

The simmering row over Arizona’s tough-as-nails immigration law has led to a shift in venue for the U.S.-Mexico border governors’ meeting, an annual event usually characterized by unity and good will.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, canceled the bash she was due to host after six border governors from Mexico pulled out in protest at the desert state’s crackdown on unauthorized immigrants she inked into law in late April.

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New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat, stepped in this week to save the meeting which is now set to take place in Santa Fe in late September — although full attendance looks doubtful in the poisoned atmosphere that lingers.

Arizona immigration law prompts ACLU travel alert

aliensAs Arizona prepares to implement a controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants, the American Civil Liberties Union has issued a travel alert advising visitors to the desert state of their civil rights if stopped by police.

The law requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone that they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally, during the course of lawful contact such as a traffic stop.

Backers of the measure, which takes effect on July 29 barring a successful legal challenge, say it is needed to curb illegal immigration and border-related crime in the state, which is a major corridor for drug and human smuggling from Mexico. Opponents, among them the ACLU, say it is a recipe for racial profiling.

Clinton spokesman stands by her words in immigration fracas

OBAMA/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that the U.S. government would sue to block Arizona’s tough new immigration law raised some eyebrows around town, not to mention in Arizona.

But at the State Department, Clinton’s press people have had little to say — except that “her words speak for themselves.”

And they have said that over and over again.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner was grilled about Clinton’s comments in an interview with an Ecuadoran television station on a trip to Latin America last week.

Arizona law galvanizes U.S. Latinos

IMMIGRATION-USA/ARIZONAThe swastika made of refried beans smeared onto the glass doors of the Arizona State Capitol this week captured the anger of Hispanics at the law authorizing local police to question anyone reasonably suspected of being in the United States illegally. The controvesial law, which critics say is a mandate for racial profiling, has galvanized the country’s largest minority that is expected to turn out in large numbers at planned rallies in more than 70 U.S. cities.

Hispanics were disappointed that President Barack Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise to overhaul the immigration system in his first year in office. The Pew Research Center says 76 percent of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the United States are Hispanics. The Latino community sees the undocumented immigrants as contributing with their labor to the growth of the U.S. economy and deserve the right to be legal residents.

The Arizona measure was criticized by other minorities. “This law is un-American as it unjustly targets communities of color, in particular immigrant communities, which have been critical to the economic growth of our country throughout its history,” said Michael Honda, chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.