President Obama's reelection campaign on Wednesday pounced on statements by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney opposing programs that would allow some illegal immigrants to remain in the country.
At Tuesday’s GOP candidate debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the United States needs to be “humane” and allow illegal immigrants who have been in the country for a long time to stay without being granted citizenship. Romney said Gingrich's proposal amounted to amnesty and that it would encourage more people to come to the United States illegally.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, and Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said Romney is catering to right-wing conservatives and giving lopsided emphasis to deportation.
“I think he’s going to do whatever’s necessary to maintain and protect his front-runner status,” Gonzalez said. “He’s got to go extreme to out-pander the competition.”
Reyes said he was disappointed and saddened when he heard Romney attack Gingrich’s “humane” ideas.
The Obama campaign has focused most of its attacks on Romney, seeing him as the most likely candidate to win the nomination. Framing Romney as a conservative hard-liner on immigration could help Obama gain Latino support in 2012.
The campaign and the congressmen also accused Romney of flip-flopping on several issues and said his positions on health care and education would hurt Latinos.
“What he’s espousing sets us back as a nation,” Gonzalez said.