Mitt Romney (REUTERS/Chris Keane)
The movement to make sure that anti-Irish, anti-Catholic cartoonist Thomas Nast is not enshrined in the New Jersey Hall of Fame continues to gain momentum. 

A wide range of groups, and not just Irish ones, have come out against Nast, who was famous for inventing our image of Santa Claus, but also made Catholics look like scheming villains and the Irish look like apes.

And yet, even as this very sensible opposition to nativism and anti-immigrant ideas makes itself heard, there is troubling news on the horizon. This only proves yet again that we are a schizophrenic nation when it comes to immigration.

Barring a major catastrophe, we can expect that Mitt Romney will emerge from this weekend’s South Carolina primary as the Republican candidate for president.
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And so, even though the general election in still 10 months away, it is probably not too early to start thinking about how certain key issues will play out.

News reports that Romney was hitting the campaign trail with a man by the name of Kris Kobach suggests we can expect a bitter campaign on the immigration front.

Who is Kris Kobach?

Though he is little-known outside of political circles, Kobach is a tremendously influential -- and divisive -- figure.

By day, Kobach serves as the Kansas secretary of state. But he is also a lawyer and outspoken activist against illegal immigration and is one of the driving forces behind controversial anti-immigration measures in a number of states, most notably Arizona.

Arizona, of course, is where an Irish American and former Port Authority police officer named John Kavanagh -- who serves as a state senator -- has been spearheading a movement that some critics call anti-immigrant or nativist.

Back is 2010, Kavanagh, who was born in Queens, confronted just such a protester, who demanded to know where his own ancestors came from originally.

After touting his Irish (as well as German) roots, Kavanagh went on to stress that his ancestors came to the U.S. “legally.”

This, of course, may be true. 

But it’s not like illegal immigration was just  recently invented.  Millions of Americans not only have
immigrant roots, they also have illegal immigrant roots.

Sensible people, of course, can disagree over immigration. But Kavanagh and Kobach have catered to some hardline thoughts on this topic.  And now they are taking aim at the U.S. Constitution.

Earlier this month, a New York Times story about a looming immigration battle featured both Kobach and Kavanagh, and it’s not the first time the duo has been paired in the press.

“The next big immigration battle centers on illegal immigrants’ offspring, who are granted automatic citizenship like all other babies born on American soil,” the Times noted.  “Arguing for an end to the policy, which is rooted in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, immigration hardliners describe a wave of migrants…stepping across the border in the advanced stages of pregnancy to have what are dismissively called ‘anchor babies.’”

With the latest news that Romney has been endorsed by, and campaigning with, the likes of Kobach, we can be sure to expect lots of nasty talk about immigrants on the campaign trail.

Not that we should be surprised.  Everyone knows that Romney, though likely to win the nomination, also has very soft support among conservatives.  All along he has been taking a hard-line stance on immigration, playing to voters fears. 

This even as conservatives such as New Gingrich and Rick Perry have made shocking statements suggesting that we not scapegoat immigrants for the country’s woes.

This, of course, plays right into Romney’s hands.

The problem is that such tactics generally poison the atmosphere and accomplish nothing in terms of some our real problems relating to immigration, the economy and jobs.

Furthermore, President Obama will be in no position to stand up for a sensible immigration policy during the election.

So, expect lots of nasty talk about immigrants in the coming months.  Thomas Nast would be proud.

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