Latino leaders blast Kobach, GOP’s ‘extremist’ stance on immigration

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    The Republican Party’s “extremists positions” on immigration and laws like the DREAM Act that would legalize undocumented youth are increasingly hostile and, ultimately, misdirected, concurred a group of national Latino leaders Thursday.

    Police escort protestors from the room after disrupting Kris Kobach, Secretary of State from Kansas, as he addressed the Commission at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Immigration Briefing in Birmingham, Ala. on Friday, August 17, 2012. Alabama state Rep. Chris England told members that police may use “markers” based on peoples’ appearance to make traffic stops under the laws, despite prohibitions against profiling. (AP Photo/Southern Poverty Law Center, Butch Dill)

    Congressman Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, veteran civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and other national Hispanic leaders criticized the recently rising rhetoric during a conference call with reporters Thursday.

    “What we are seeing is something very frightening,” Huerta said.

    The Republican Party has created “a war against immigrants,” she added, by allowing people like Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to dictate the party’s stance on immigration.

    Kobach has authored the country’s most controversial immigration laws, such as Arizona’s SB 1070, and created Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” plan — which revolves around the idea that strict immigration laws will encourage undocumented immigrants to leave the country.

    On Thursday, Kobach also filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees against the Obama administration over its deferred action program that allows certain undocumented youth to stay and work.

    This came a day after Kobach persuaded the Republican Party to restore several provisions that the party had previously included in it’s 2008 platform. A Republican committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved Kobach’s proposal that calls for the GOP to support completing the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, implementing a mandatory employment verification system and ending sanctuary cities and in-state tuition for undocumented students.

    Read related: Coalition pushes Latino agenda at political conventions

    “We are a party that recognizes that illegal means illegal,” Kobach told the committee Wednesday. “It is important that we do not retreat from these elements that were in our 2008 platform.”

    He added that these positions are in line with Romney’s campaign. On his website, Romney outlines a similar immigration plan and also calls to do away with “magnets” that attract undocumented immigrants to come to the U.S. Such “magnets” include in-state tuition and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

    During Thursday’s call, Rep. Gutiérrez condemned Republicans and Romney for not backing down from their tough stance on immigration.

    The Democratic congressman also told VOXXI that the new GOP platform “continues the fantasy that we can or should remove 11-12 million immigrants and their families from the U.S. and continues the Republican rhetoric that all immigrants are criminals, threats, freeloaders, or an economic drain.”

    “The Republicans don’t want to solve our immigration problems and they don’t want to eliminate illegal immigration; rather, Romney and Kobach want to use it as a campaign issue and stoke fear, anger, and division as much as they can,” he added.

    Pro-immigrant protestors stand behind panel members as they speak in the Immigration Briefing to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Birmingham, Ala. on Friday, August 17, 2012.(Butch Dill/AP Images for Southern Poverty Law Center)

    Cesar Vargas, a 28-year-old undocumented immigrant who co-founded a lobbying firm called DRM Capitol Group, told reporters Thursday that dreamers had hoped the Republican Party would adopt “a more humane tone on immigration.” He said the party’s new platform shows that “they don’t want to include us.”

    Vargas and his group have been following Romney’s campaign trail since January when the former Massachusetts governor said he would veto the DREAM Act. The group has protested and rallied at several campaign stops to voice their opposition against Romney’s stance on the DREAM Act.

    “We don’t want a handout,” the dreamer from New York said. “We just want an opportunity.”

    Vargas is among the dozens of dreamers who plan to attend the Republican National Convention scheduled to run from Aug. 27-30.

    Read related: Metropolitan State University sets the stage with policy for DREAMers

    Also attending the convention will be Gaby Pacheco, the political director of United We Dream, the nation’s largest youth-led organization advocating for the DREAM Act. She said the presence of dreamers at the convention is important to rake up support for the DREAM Act.

    “It’s really crucial that we continue to bridge relationships with both parties because we are going to need votes from not just Democrats but also Republicans in order to pass the DREAM Act,” she told VOXXI.

    Police escort protestors from the room after disrupting Kris Kobach, Secretary of State from Kansas, as he addressed the Commission at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Immigration Briefing in Birmingham, Ala. on Friday, August 17, 2012. Alabama state Rep. Chris England told members that police may use “markers” based on peoples’ appearance to make traffic stops under the laws, despite prohibitions against profiling.  (AP Photo/Southern Poverty Law Center, Butch Dill)

    Romney has not backed down from his stance on the DREAM Act. Nor has he indicated whether he would repeal President Barack Obama’s deferred action program for undocumented youth.

    Mike O’Neil, a political analyst from Arizona, said any mention of the deferred action program by Romney at the convention could be potentially dangerous for the Republican presidential candidate.

    “If he says he would repeal it, that would crank up the Hispanic vote against him so he doesn’t want to go there,” O’Neil told VOXXI. “At the same time, he also doesn’t want to say he would not repeal it because he’s got the hardcore, anti-immigrant people on the right, and he doesn’t want to tick them off either.”

    But Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, told VOXXI he doesn’t expect Romney will say at the the Republican National Convention what he would do about the federal program. Neither does he expect many convention speakers to mention it.

    “It’s not going to be a big issue for them,” Camarota said. “It’ll come up more at the Democratic convention and there will be more praise for it there, but it’s just not going to be an essential issue at Republican convention.”

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