Democrats on Monday renewed their criticism of Mitt Romney on immigration, putting forward Sen. Harry Reid who said the Republican's support of "get tough" laws will backfire among Latino voters.
Reid, the Senate majority leader, said there is no need to look any further than the Nevada Senate campaign of 2010, where Latinos turned out to help win him a new six-year term over GOP challenger Sharron Angle who advocated an immigration hard line.
"People all over this country saw what happened in Nevada," Reid said on a call with reporters. "When someone like me who had been reasonable ... on doing something about immigration tried to do the right thing, and they went after me with such venom, and it backfired."
Democrats seized an opportunity to level new blasts at presidential contender Romney after his endorsement this weekend by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in advance of that state's GOP primary on Tuesday.
Brewer in 2010 signed the nation's toughest law on undocumented immigrants, which has served as a touchstone for efforts in other states to combat illegal immigration.
In a debate last week in Arizona, Romney said the state's law could serve as a model for the nation, and that he would withdraw civil rights lawsuits the Obama administration has filed against it.
Romney also has said he would veto the Dream Act, a measure proposed by Democrats that would open a path to citizenship to immigrants brought into the country as youngsters if they serve in the military or complete two years of college.
Democrats and their allies have been chasing Romney since the Florida primary late last month, charging he was sending mixed messages on immigration depending on the audience. On Monday, Reid was joined by Rep. Charles Gonzales, D-Texas, and activist Dolores Huerta.
Reid charged most Republicans have turned away from"common sense" approaches to issues presented by the 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country. A solution, he said, would include secure borders, a crackdown on "unscrupulous employers," and a system that allows people already here to work toward citizenship. That last element draws the most opposition from critics who call it "amnesty" that would reward people who broke the law when entering the United States.
While Romney's immigration stance might help him secure the Republican nomination, it will hurt him among moderates and independents he would need to defeat Obama, Gonzales said.
Romney "has painted himself into a corner where he will continue with these extreme positions for whatever immediate political advantage he is gaining in the primaries," Gonzales said. "He is running to represent all of the people in the United States, and to adopt policies to the benefit of all the people."
A Romney campaign spokesman said the criticism was "a dishonest smear from President Obama's liberal allies and a desperate attempt to distract from his failed jobs record and broken promises."
"Three years into his Presidency, Barack Obama hasn't secured our borders or done anything to improve our legal immigration system," Ryan Williams said. "As president, Mitt Romney will turn around our economy and will follow through on his commitment to secure our borders, enforce current immigration laws, and improve our legal immigration system."