Speaking for the Obama campaign on a conference call to discuss Republicans' position on illegal immigration, a Texas congressman called Mitt Romney's hard-line stance "incredibly perplexing" because of attacks he's faced for his Mormon faith.
Reps. Silvestre Reyes and Charlie Gonzalez were tapped by the president's reelection campaign specifically to criticize Romney, seen by the Obama campaign as their most likely general election foe, on the immigration issue.
In Tuesday night's national security debate, Newt Gingrich drew fire from his GOP rivals, including Romney, for advocating what he considered a "pro-family" view of immigration.
"I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who’ve been here for a quarter of a century ... [and] separate them from their families and expel them," he said. "I'm prepared to take the heat in saying: Let's be humane in enforcing the law."
Romney and his campaign called that a policy of amnesty.
"In order to bring people in legally, we've got to stop illegal immigration. That means turning off the magnets of amnesty," he said in the debate."
Reyes and Gonzalez tried to argue that Romney's view amounted to another flip-flop, saying he had supported a comprehensive immigration reform plan proposed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and Republican Sen. John McCain.
"In today's political climate I think he feels he needs to oppose any kind of humane policy, no matter how it betrays the legacy of our nation," Reyes said.
Reyes later said the former Massachusetts governor "gives flip-floppers a bad name."
"I don't think we really know what his position may or may not be," he said. "Part of what's disturbing is, he's the one who's had to endure the attacks on his religion. And for him to now take this kind of position is incredibly perplexing."
Asked to what he meant by drawing Romney's religion into the discussion, Reyes said he was referring to the views expressed by some evangelicals that Mormonism is a cult.
"Being subjected to intolerance like that about his own religion, to me you would think he would be, in terms of his policies and in terms of his positions, would take a more tolerant view, like what Gingrich was trying to promote," he said.