Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Republicans of "harshness,
bitterness, meanness" and of "catering to the Tea Party" in their approach to
immigration policy during a conference call Monday.
As if that weren't enough, he took it one step further, implying Republicans are allowing prejudice against Hispanics to govern their policy-making.
During the conference call hosted by the Democratic National Committee to highlight GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's record on immigration, Reid was asked by an AP reporter if he believed there is "racism in this dynamic here."
Reid first responded that Republicans are guilty of "mean-spirited fear-mongering."
But just before he hung up, Reid complained that Republicans refuse to consider the DREAM Act, laud Arizona's immigration law and are blocking the confirmation of Puerto Rican-born Mari Aponte as ambassador to El Salvador.
"I think some of what is going on here answers your question as to whether there's some prejudice here," Reid said.
On the eve of the Arizona primary, the DNC organized the call to highlight Romney's support of the state's aggressive illegal immigration law. In a debate last week, Romney said the law could be a model for the nation's approach to illegal immigration.
The Democrats also criticized Romney for accepting endorsements from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who both have hardline anti-illegal immigration positions.
"I can't imagine Gov. Romney saying these things he has and these people running for president of the United States being proud of the Arizona law," Reid said.
Reid warned that harsh immigration rhetoric backfires with voters, using his 2010 race against former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle as an example.
"How about 2010, when people all over this country saw what happened when someone like me, who had been reasonable, doing something about immigration, tried to do the right thing and they went after me with such venom," Reid said. "That's the only way I can describe it and it backed fired on them."
The Romney campaign accused Democrats of using a "dishonest smear" to distract voters.
"Three years into his Presidency, Barack Obama hasn't secured our borders or done anything to improve our legal immigration system," spokesman Ryan Williams said. "As President, Mitt Romney will follow through on his commitment to secure our borders, enforce current immigration laws, and improve our legal immigration system."
Williams also accused Reid of being "two-faced" on immigration, bringing up a 1993 speech in which Reid advocated denying citizenship to children born in the United States to illegal immigrants. In 2006, Reid called that speech "the biggest mistake I ever made."
This story has been edited to clarify the positions of Brewer and Kobach.
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