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Fox News star Sean Hannity suddenly likes immigration reform

COMMENTARY

November 09, 2012|By James Rainey

The crucial role that Latino voters played in denying Mitt Romney and Republicans the presidency got the attention of many political observers -- and at least one hard-line opponent of immigration reform.

 Radio and television hotspur Sean Hannity — who for years has spit the word “amnesty” like an epithet — declared Thursday that he has “evolved” and now supports creating a “pathway” to citizenship for those already in the country illegally.

 “It’s simple to me to fix it,” Hannity said. “I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here — you don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on.

 “Because, you know what, it’s got to be resolved. The majority of people here, if some people have criminal records you can send them home; but if people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, first secure the border, pathway to citizenship, done.”

 That's a dramatic departure from the previous stand of the vitriolic Fox News host, who has sneered at those who sympathized with undocumented workers or suggested just such a legal “pathway.”

 A couple of years back, Hannity said the American people did not want such “amnesty”  for those who came to the U.S. without permission. He railed against Congress considering a plan that would “ram this down America's throat.”

 Hannity played host to right-wing members of Congress and others who insisted that even illegal immigrants who served in the U.S. military should not be granted legal residence and a chance at citizenship.

He referred to the Dream Act, which would have given  young people brought to the U.S. by their parents a path to citizenship if they attended college or served in the military, as “an amnesty nightmare.”

 The Fox star put his animus toward the issue on display again and again. When one conservative commentator on his show suggested there might have to be at least “limited amnesty,” and Fox analyst Juan Williams called for a “reasonable resolution,” Hannity retorted: “Right, deportation.”

 He listened politely as right-wing virago Michelle Malkin suggested that Democrats wanted amnesty so they could “recruit more illegal aliens, so they can turn them into Democratic voters.”

 So why the sudden change of heart? Hannity did not offer an extended explanation.  But the timing told the story.  In the GOP primaries, Romney adopted a similar hard line against any concessions to workers who came to the U.S. illegally, saying they  should be treated so harshly that they would “self-deport.”

That didn’t go over so well with Latino voters, about 70% of whom voted for President Obama this week — providing the margin of victory in several key states.

So now the highly principled Hannity has changed his mind. He told his listeners it’s time to “get rid of the immigration issue altogether,” adding:  “You can’t let the problem continue — it’s got to stop.”

What’s next, Bill O’Reilly backing gay marriage?

james.rainey@latimes.com

Twitter: latimesrainey

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