In Spanish, we say "Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres" - "Tell me with whom you walk and I will tell you who you are."
Mitt Romney walks today with the most anti-immigrant officials in America - notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio; hardliner Sheriff Paul Babeu; former California Gov. Pete Wilson; Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of Arizona's and Alabama's draconian laws; and Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed Arizona's infamous SB 1070, into law. Last week Romney called that policy a "model" for the nation, even though it lets law enforcement randomly check documents and detain people without cause.
Romney, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, is actively courting the most divisive and extreme advocates on one of the critical issues our next president will decide.
His own anti-immigrant positions are alarming - not just for Latinos, but for all Americans who recognize that our diverse nation of immigrants is stronger when we stand united. President Obama believes strongly that our diversity is what makes America great, which is why he has fought hard for commonsense and comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act.
Romney used to believe in these solutions, too. But now that he needs to pander to the Tea Party, he's severely changed his tune.
He once supported Sen. John McCain's and Sen. Ted Kennedy's comprehensive immigration reform bill, calling it "reasonable." Now he surrounds himself with these shameful advisors and derides sensible proposals as "magnets." He once said it didn't make sense to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country. Now he wants to kick them all out, saying the inhumane policy of "self-deportation" is the answer for families who have lived here for generations and served their communities or in the military.
And Romney has promised to veto the DREAM Act for responsible young immigrants - and even called it a "handout," as though going to college or serving in the military is a free pass.
These anti-immigrant positions would make Romney the most extreme Republican nominee in our lifetimes, aided and abetted by the most extreme allies he can find.
Romney named former California Gov. Pete Wilson, the notorious champion of Proposition 187, as his campaign's honorary chairman in that state. The law, which was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, aimed to block undocumented residents and children from essential services such as basic medical care and K-12 public education. Wilson is so reviled in the Latino community that he is known as "El Diablo" for his systematic demonization of immigrants.
Kobach, another Romney advisor, stoked nativist fears by saying illegal immigration "has plagued our country for a generation" and he supports self-deportation - which is nothing more than code for making life unbearable for hardworking immigrants. If he becomes president, Romney is reportedly considering a national version of Kobach's SB 1070.
Romney's newest supporter, Gov. Brewer, promotes policies that undermine the public trust and embarrass Arizona. Because of her, our constituents are subject to widespread harassment and discrimination. And yet Gov. Romney chose to align himself with someone who has created a culture of fear and division in our state.
Mitt Romney is determined to separate families and divide our nation. Like most Latinos and Arizonans, we believe our leaders should bring us together. That's why we walk with President Obama.
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