Now that Rick Santorum has, unexpectedly, emerged (for the moment, at least) as a serious challenger to Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, it may be worth taking a look at his record to see if there is any difference between him and Romney on immigration. The answer is: very little. Moreover, what little difference exists is not in the right direction, based on Santorum's campaign speeches and television interviews.
Both Romney and Santorum have taken the extreme right wing hard line on illegal immigration. Romney, of course, has been endorsed by the unspeakable Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, who has arguably done more than anyone else in America to try to put a legal face on anti-immigrant bigotry.
Both presidential candidates are against any form of "amnesty" or legal status for unauthorized immigrants. Both have come out in favor of the border fence, local enforcement of immigration laws and English-only laws (except, in Romney's case, when he is running Spanish-language campaign ads). English-only, of course, is aimed against legal immigrants and minority US citizens as well as unauthorized immigrants).
Both have hedged, slightly, on the question whether they would actively seek to deport every one of the estimated 11 million people currently in the US without legal permission. Santorum has vaguely suggested that there might be other ways of "dealing" with them. Romney, with his highly developed instinct for picking the wrong phrase, has suggested "self-deportation".
Not much difference here, so far. But Romney has consistently claimed that he strongly supports legal immigration. While Santorum has also repeated this mantra, there has been an important exception. In a speech leading up to the South Carolina primary, Santorum said that he had problems with "lotteries" and "chain migration". Translation: legal immigration by non-whites.
Therefore, Santorum may be trying even harder than Romney to press all the racial buttons in an attempt to gain working class white votes. The fact that both candidates are working furiously to antagonize Latino US citizens and hand this fastest growing segment of America's population over to the Democrats on a silver platter does not seem to matter to the Republicans. Rigid adherence to bigotry and white supremacy may be the only thing more important to the Republican party than winning elections.
However, speculating on Santorum's immigration views may be relevant to this election for only a short time more - until Romney's billionaire campaign contributors use their Super-Pac money to blast Santorum out of the water, just as they did with Newt Gingrich. If this happens, it will not be any great loss for immigration supporters.
Just as an addendum on the subject of Super-Pac money, there may be an argument that Romney's tens or hundreds of millions of dollars spent in negative advertising against his opponents may be starting to work against him. It not only emphasizes his great wealth, but may be perceived among many less well off Republican voters as giving him an unfair advantage over Santorum and other Republican opponents.
Was this the Supreme Court's indirect way of discouraging unlimited spending on campaign advertising - by giving plutocratic "children" like Romney the Citizens United matches to burn themselves with? Whatever the answer may be, the more money that hard right wing opponents of immigration by people from all levels of society or ethnic groups, such as Romney and Santorum, spend on destroying each other, the better the outlook for the future of immigration in America.
Postscript: The above was written while Santorum was still a viable candidate. His campaign has since imploded because of publicity surrounding his unspeakable remarks against contraception and even crazier ones by his billionaire Super-Pac supporter.
Santorum's attack on contraception is not only an insult to all women, but to Catholics in general, whom Santorum seems to assume are all just as bigoted as he is. There is also another moral to this story. It is hard to keep the genie of hate locked up in only one bottle. In Santorum's case, hatred against Hispanic and other minority immigrants, as evidenced in his attack against "lotteries" and "chain migration", has spilled out into hatred against all women. Adios, Rick Santorum, anti-immigrant, anti-female bigot. It was great knowin' ya.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.