Rob Portman on immigration and trade (possible Mitt Romney VP candidate)


Ohio senator Rob Portman has been named as a possible Mitt Romney selection for a running mate. Portman's record on immigration and trade isn't good, but then again it doesn't appear to be a key issue for him. He appears to be fairly bad on immigration more as just another part of being an establishment Republican rather than out of ideological reasons.


* Portman is the junior senator from Ohio. From 2005 to 2006, he was US Trade Representative. After that and until 2007 he was director of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget). Both of those were in the George W Bush administration. Before that he was a Representative.

* NumbersUSA gave him an F- grade in 2010 [1]. He didn't reply to their questions, but they rated him as not opposing amnesty, chain migration, visa lotteries, and reducing total immigration. They say he's against limiting worker importation and against mandating eVerify. They rated him as indecisive on attrition and on defunding sanctuary cities. They rated him as "Yes" on local police taking a role in immigration enforcement and on border security.

* Another NumbersUSA report card [2] gives him a C- from 2009 to 2012, but most of that is due to inaction rather than things he's done. His career rating (1993 to 2012) is worse: D+. That's based on several actions he took as a Congressman, and his strength on border security (A+) raises his overall grade. His trendline goes up from the 90s.

* In a July 11, 2007 press briefing, Portman said this [3]:

"...immigration wasn't quite the hot issue it's become this year, but it was a hot issue. And at the end of the day, you recall there was some money added in the Senate. We continue to believe that a comprehensive approach is the right thing. In the meantime, we're going to keep funding more Border Patrol, doubling the Border Patrol. We're funding the National Guard again this year, in '08; we're funding a billion dollars more for border protection. So we think that's adequate."

Obviously, someone appointed by Bush is going to have to support Bush's comprehensive immigration reform plan, and Portman was not in the Michael Chertoff league as far as promoting Bush's amnesty came. That would be a damning quote if Portman had been on the front lines like Chertoff was and had said things like that repeatedly. Later in the briefing, Portman explains how $4 billion was which to be given to the Department of Homeland Security over five years wasn't going to be provided because it was to have been derived from fees paid by those amnestied under Bush's plan, and how that couldn't be provided from discretionary funds. None of that is good, but it's also exactly what someone would expect from anyone in the Bush administration.

* The best that can be said about Portman's two-page summary of his immigration position is that there's no there there [4]. It begins with this stock boilerplate: "America is a nation of immigrants, and legal immigrants have enriched and continue to enrich the United States. But we are also a nation of laws, and those laws must be enforced." See that link. He then says that "amnesty" is the "wrong approach". For the likely way he's playing word games, see reform not amnesty.

After a stock discussion that boils down to secure the border (which he probably mostly means), he says we need to "[c]reate a shared database with the Social Security Administration for the mandatory verification of authorized workers" and "[i]mpose tougher sanctions on employers who fail to comply with mandatory verification." The first might be some sort of eVerify alternative, and the second could be disingenuous. Sanctions on employers could be increased, but the main problem is that few sanctions are issued.

The most telling paragraph is this: "Special focus should be targeted at finding and deporting the roughly 2 million persons in America illegally who have committed crimes or who have fled after having been ordered to be deported. Running from the law should be a punishable crime." That's basically the position held by Barack Obama, John McCain, and others, and it probably indicates that Portman would extend some form of an updated Bush amnesty to the remaining 10 million or so illegal aliens.

Portman then celebrates legal immigration including his ancestors, says "we should recommit ourselves to the importance of English language skills" and says "[c]itizenship is bestowed by our nation and must not come cheaply or easily".

There's little in there that's controversial and that someone outside the far-left couldn't also say.

* Portman was only mentioned here once before, but that was in "Bush '08 budget only covers half of border fence".

* Another list of Portman's 2005 and before immigration votes is at [5].

* Portman supported [6] a free trade agreement between Colombia and the U.S., and other such agreements.

* Portman said "I’m comfortable with that [the Romney-Gingrich position] and I think most Republicans are" about their joint plan of a DREAM Act that would only cover illegal aliens who then join the U.S. military [7].

* Bay Buchanan opposed Portman for Senate, calling him a "former pro-amnesty congressman" (humanevents . com/article.php?id=33826).

* In an unconfirmed letter from Portman to a constituent [8] that appears to be all or mostly boilerplate, Portman offers a shorter version of the PDF at his site, but also says: "Our immigration system is broken and is in need of reform". See that link.

* Portman was said [9] to support a Scott Brown E3 Visa plan that "would allow 10,500 Irish to come to America on a two-year work visa renewable after that period every two years".

* The Democratic Party (which, of course, won't mention his immigration weaknesses) claims Portman "has supported policies that helped create a huge trade imbalance and ship thousands of Ohio jobs overseas" [10].

* While it has nothing to do with immigration, the Democrats might also try to play the race card on Portman relating to his commendation of radio host Bill Cunningham [11].

Portman doesn't appear to be an ideologue on immigration but just supports the position of the Republican establishment. It's hard to see him becoming strong on immigration unless there's a very compelling political reason for him to do so and unless it's approved by the GOP establishment.

UPDATE: Portman might be worse than thought. From buzzfeed . com/mckaycoppins/

"Honest to God, the person that has the best credentials on Latino issues is [Ohio Senator] Rob Portman," said one high-profile immigration advocate, requesting anonymity to avoid appearing to boost the Republican ticket. "If you look at his record in Congress, he was for comprehensive immigration reform. The truth is, he would have a lot of credibility."

Portman's record has remained remarkably pro-immigrant over the years even as his party has adopted an increasingly hard line on immigration. In the House, he voted against reporting illegal immigrants who receive hospital treatment, and in favor of granting more immigrant visas for skilled workers...

More recently, while campaigning for Senate, Portman indicated support for a "path to citizenship" for some illegal immigrants. Fluent in Spanish — which he learned in college — he even cut his own Spanish-language campaign ad, focused on the economy...

...And while Portman — still unknown by most people, including Hispanics — may not be a silver bullet either, Republican strategist Ana Navarro said in the modern GOP, he may be one Romney's best options.

"He hasn't been a visible leader for immigration reform like McCain was, but he also is not a known anti-immigrant," Navarro said. "And that's pretty good these days."

[1] numbersusa . com/content/elections/candidates/republican/rob-portman.html
[2] numbersusa . com/content/my/congress/10713/reportcard/RECENT/
[3] presidency.ucsb . edu/ws/index.php?pid=75533
[4] robportman . com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Immigration.pdf
[5] votesmart . org/candidate/key-votes/27008/rob-portman/40/immigration
[6] themiddleclass . org/bill/united-statescolombia-trade-promotion-agreement-implementation-act
[7] thehill . com/homenews/campaign/208469-dems-face-tricky-immigration-choice-
[8] alipac dot us/f12/reply-oh-senator-rob-portman-220855/
[9] irishcentral . com/news/Key-Republican-senators-sign-up-to-Irish-E3-visa-bill-139570188.html
[10] my.democrats . org/page/content/robportman
[11] prospect . org/article/portmans-macaca-moment