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August 04, 2014 11:42 AM Ironic Immigration Bellwethers

By Ed Kilgore

If you don’t view the rightward shift of the GOP on immigration-related issues as a pretty big deal symptomatic of the party’s basic dynamics, consider the trajectory of two elected officials central to past and present debates on the subject.

The most obvious is Sen. Marco Rubio. As noted in earlier post today, Rubio was by all accounts working on his own DREAM Act variation in the spring and summer of 2012, reportedly to serve as a bridge for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to walk back the hostile-to-immigrants “self-deportation” position he had taken in the primaries. And in 2013, Rubio was, of course, the chief GOP advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, including what is now being described by most Republicans as “amnesty” for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants.

After watching his approval ratings among conservatives plunge, Rubio has repudiated his own “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill, and more recently, called for a end to DACA.

Nearly as ironic to find in the ranks of DREAM-deniers as Rubio is Rick Perry. His own support for favorable treatment of DREAMers in Texas—and Mitt Romney’s skillful exploitation of it— probably had more to do with the shocking collapse of his 2012 presidential campaign than any other one factor. Now he is the bellowing national voice of resistance to any incursion of children across the border, and has actually managed to benefit even from the disarray of congressional Republicans by attacking everyone in Washington for failing to provide relief at the border.

No wonder there’s more and more talk about Mitt Romney running for president again in 2014. He seems to have been well ahead of the curve in his party in choosing nativists over Latinos as a target audience.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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