On a Sunday morning talk show last weekend, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina criticized Mitt Romney’s post-election “gift” comments and offered some advice to the Republican Party regarding its lurch to the right on immigration policy and its thumping by Latino voters: “When you’re in a hole, stop digging. He [Romney] keeps digging.”  

Increasingly, Kobach, like Romney, finds himself isolated within the Republican Party

- Frank Sharry

Added Sen. Graham, “The Hispanic community, 71 percent voted for President Obama, and they’re all disappointed in President Obama… But they voted for him because he’s a lesser of two evils. Self-deportation being pushed by Mitt Romney hurts our chances. We’re in a death spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration. And candidate Romney and the primary dug the hole deeper.”

So how did Romney come to embrace the radical “self-deportation” strategy that Sen. Graham referenced? 

In fact, the main man behind it was Kris Kobach, an immigration advisor to Romney and the lead author of the Republican National Convention’s policy platform. 

Kobach is one of the leading proponents of the ugly idea that if you make life miserable enough for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, they will pick up and “self-deport.”

Kobach also is the legal architect of the radical Arizona and Alabama “show me your papers” laws.

Despite being the elected Secretary of State in Kansas, Kobach seems to spend a great deal of his time outside of the state pushing his unpopular and controversial policies. 

Just recently, for example, he filed a lawsuit against President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect young immigrants who call themselves DREAMers. 

The DACA program is extremely popular with Latino voters and very popular with all voters – a nationwide Election Day poll by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners and Republican firm The Tarrance Group found that Latinos support DACA by a massive 77 percent-14 percent margin while the whole electorate supports the policy by a 57 percent-26 percent margin.

Mr. Kobach had a bad day several weeks ago, as his radical immigration stances helped to sink Romney’s candidacy. 

Across the country, Latino voters preferred President Obama over Romney by a whopping 75 percent-23 percent margin, according to an election eve poll from impreMedia/Latino Decisions. 

The same poll also found that Romney’s hard-line immigration policy stances – such as self-deportation – were a major factor in Latino voters’ vote choice. 

The poll found that 57 percent of Latino voters said Romney’s immigration positions made them “less enthusiastic” about Romney, versus only 7 percent of Latinos who said it made them “more enthusiastic” about Romney’s candidacy. 

Even as the election results were rolling in, many pundits were highlighting that Romney’s embrace of Kobach’s immigration vision was one of Romney’s most damaging campaign blunders.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kobach had another bad day. 

DREAMers from across the country traveled to Kansas, calling on Kobach to drop his lawsuit against DREAMers and to stop using his office to launch attacks on immigrants. 

When asked for a reaction to the DREAMer protesters, Kobach described the group’s demands as “insane.” 

He also showed his true colors in a comment he made to the Associated Press, saying “The audacity of these illegal aliens is amazing…Illegal means illegal, and that's a very simple concept to understand and yet they want me to ignore the fact that the law has meaning in Kansas."

Increasingly, Kobach, like Romney, finds himself isolated within the Republican Party. 

GOP elected officials across the country, party strategists, and conservative activists are agreeing with Sen. Graham and are now calling for a new approach to immigration reform – one that embraces a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, rather than the nationwide purge championed by Mr. Kobach.

Unfortunately, it seems like Kobach has neither gotten the memo nor recognized that voters, both Latino and the vast majority of all Americans, soundly reject his anti-immigrant extremism.

It’s an important and positive development that many in the Republican Party have made it clear they are ready to jettison the nativist strand of the Party, embodied by Kris Kobach. But they should know that the Kobach vision on immigration will continue to define the Republican Party unless and until the GOP rejects his influence and actively works to pass the type of sensible immigration reform Americans want and deserve.

Frank Sharry is the founder and Executive Director of America’s Voice

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