New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez Assails Romney's Immigration Views

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martínez, mentioned on occasion as a possible running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is mincing no words in voicing her opinion of his immigration views.

In an interview with Newsweek, Martínez was unusually outspoken on immigration, in particular about Romney’s support of enforcement policies that would make undocumented immigrants so miserable that they will opt for self-deportation.

“‘Self-deport?’ What the heck does that mean?” she was quoted as saying in the story, which described her as snapping her answer. “I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign. But now there’s an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why.”

“Republicans want to be tough and say, ‘Illegals, you’re gone.’ But the answer is a lot more complex than that,” Martínez said in the story.

She said she favors comprehensive immigration reform, which generally means tightening enforcement programs like border security and more vigorously going after employers who hire undocumented workers, as well as allowing for a pathway to legalization for certain people who are here unlawfully.

Self-deport? What the heck does that mean? I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign.

— New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Mitt Romney and GOP views on immigration

Her softer views on immigration were quite surprising for a governor who’s ruffled feathers in Latino communities in New Mexico by, for example, pushing aggressively to keep undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses.

Martínez’s comments about Romney and the GOP rhetoric on immigration actually are not unusual for Republicans. Many high-profile Republicans have said that Romney, and the GOP in general, must back off pointed talk about immigration that can alienate Hispanic voters.

But this is Susana Martínez, whom Romney has mentioned as someone he’d consider for a cabinet post.

In many polls, likely Hispanic voters have said they are turned off by Republicans, including Romney, because of the seemingly hostile manner in which they address immigration – even while these Latinos say immigration is not their priority issue. Political experts say that to win the presidency, a candidate must scoop up at least 40 percent of the Latino vote.

A Fox News Latino poll earlier this year showed that 14 percent of likely Latino voters would choose Romney, compared with nearly 70 percent who said they’d vote for President Obama, even though they disagree with the way he has dealt with immigration.

Martínez also took issue with her party on other matters.

“Sometimes Republicans engage in number-crunching analysis that doesn’t always take the neediest into account,” Newsweek quoted Martínez, whose disabled sister is on Medicaid, as saying. “We have to factor them in before we start proposing these cuts.”

But Martínez didn’t hold back on blasting Obama, saying, according to the publication, that he “didn’t even have the courage to try” passing comprehensive immigration reform.  Republicans, she said in the story, sorely need a comprehensive immigration package of their own to promote, instead of just blaming Obama for inaction.

But offering a Republican version of the DREAM Act is not enough, she said in the story, adding that the Republican alternative must embrace more than just one aspect of the broader, flawed immigration system.

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