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Who's Afraid of Susana Martinez?

Last week, Jefferson Morley of Salon wrote a piece premised on the assertion that New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has committed Vice Presidential suicide by endorsing immigration reform:


“I absolutely advocate for comprehensive immigration reform,” Martinez  told reporter Andrew Romano. “Republicans want to be tough and say, ‘Illegals, you’re gone.’ But the answer is a lot more complex than that.” With those words, Martinez inflicted multiple wounds on whatever slender chance she had to join the national ticket. First, she indicated support for the immigration agenda that President Obama promises to pursue if he defeats Romney in November. Second, the reforms the 43-year-old first-term Republican favors are opposed by every Republican member of the Senate (even those like John McCain, who used to support it) and a solid majority in the House...In other words, the New Mexico governor is that now-rare national Republican figure who favors comprehensive immigration reform, otherwise known as amnesty.

Sources close to Martinez are repelled by the implication that she supports "amnesty."  They point to a position paper the governor authored on the subject during her successful 2010 campaign:

The federal government should lead on the issue of immigration reform, but they have not. While the president has called for comprehensive immigration reform and offered some vague principles, he has yet to propose a detailed plan. First and foremost, we have to secure the border and stop the flow of illegal immigration. It is not only dangerous, but also costly to our state. Each year, illegal immigration costs New Mexico millions. That is simply far more than we can afford in these times of extraordinary budget deficits and as more New Mexico families and small businesses are finding themselves in very difficult economic circumstances. Securing our border includes more boots on the ground and greater use of technology that allows us to monitor portions of the border which are extremely difficult to navigate. It is important that federal, state, and local law enforcement continue to work closely together to help secure our borders. The border security portion of immigration reform is critical, because no immigration plan can work if we have a porous border. That’s why border security must be accomplished first.

When it comes to immigration, we must continue to embrace our rich cultural heritage in New Mexico that welcomes legal immigrants. I strongly encourage the federal government to seriously debate and develop thoughtful solutions that not only embraces this heritage, but also respects our laws. In my opinion, the solution does not rest with amnesty that rewards those who have broken the law with a special pathway to citizenship that allows them to cut to the front of the immigration line. In principle, I believe we need a legal immigration process for those who are in this country now and wish to stay here that is practical, while at the same time does not invite the next wave of illegal immigrants. Simply legalizing every illegal immigrant in the country, as some have proposed, will only undermine our legal immigration process.


Martinez also pledged to revoke state-issued driver's licences from illegals and said she'd work to repeal the law that permitted their issuance in the first place.  This broad approach is both tough and sensible.  It's also forward-looking and shared by many Republicans.  Even as the nation and the party wrestle with the quandary of how to reform a broken immigration system, Martinez recognizes that a her preference for a "practical" and comprehensive strategy cannot even get off the ground unless the border is secure.  She explicitly rejects amnesty.  Emerging conservative leaders like Sen. Marco Rubio (and his efforts to build consensus around an amended DREAM Act) and Martinez will play crucial roles in helping the GOP articulate its positive message to America's burgeoning Hispanic population.  Liberals have an obvious interest in trying to drive a wedge between the Rubios of the world and the conservative base, which tends to favor more hard-line immigration policies.  (Incidentally, public support for Arizona's "draconian" immigration law remains very strong).  Conservatives shouldn't play along with this game.  Let's tackle border security first, then engage in a thoughtful and critical debate over how to reform the system in an equitable, compassionate and law-respecting manner.  Gov. Martinez supports this concept, so assertions that she's breaking ranks and backing amnesty simply are not accurate.  Parting thought: While it seems unlikely that this year's GOP nominee would pick another half-term female governor to be his running mate in the fall, the long knives are already being unsheathed -- just in case.  It's also entirely plausible that the Left is starting to feel threatened by a tough-on-crime, female, conservative Hispanic Governor from a blueish-purple state with a stunning 66 percent job approval rating.


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