New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, discussed as a potential Republican vice presidential pick, chided presumptive nominee Mitt Romney when she knocked his immigration strategy in an interview published Monday.
“‘Self-deport?’ What the heck does that mean?” Martinez said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign.”
Martinez referred to a plan Romney outlined during a January debate in Tampa, where the Republican National Convention will be held in August.
“The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here,” Romney said. “We’re not going to round them up.”
Romney was not Martinez’s only target. She criticized President Obama, saying he “didn’t even have the courage to try” to pass comprehensive immigration reform during his first term. The DREAM Act, which would offer a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who enroll in college or join the military, is not enough, she argued.
Martinez also criticized the GOP: “Republicans want to be tough and say, ‘Illegals, you’re gone,’” Martinez said. “But the answer is a lot more complex than that.”
Multiple polls have shown Romney lags far behind Obama among Hispanic voters. An Investor’s Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor/TIPP survey published last week showed the president leading Romney, 80 percent to 12 percent.
Hispanics have become a valued and expanding group of voters in the past decade. They could be crucial in such swing states as Florida, Colorado, and Martinez’s New Mexico. The governor said “there’s an opportunity for Governor Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why.”
She suggested Romney can gain ground on Obama by proposing a more complete immigration strategy that includes something similar to the DREAM Act but also features strong border security and deportation of criminals.