Home » Top News » N.H. Republicans slam Jon Huntsman’s push for illegals’ rights

N.H. Republicans slam Jon Huntsman’s push for illegals’ rights

May 21st, 2011 Top News

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — in New Hampshire this weekend to test the waters for a possible run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination — is coming under fire from Granite State Republicans for supporting in-state tuition breaks for illegal immigrants in his home state.

Huntsman, who was slated to give the commencement address today at Southern New Hampshire University, supported a 2002 law in Utah that allows illegal immigrants to pay lower rates at state colleges if they graduate from a Utah high school or get a high school equivalency degree. The former governor, who recently stepped down as ambassador to China — a post he was appointed to by President Obama — battled his own party’s efforts to overturn the law in 2007.

“I’m going to fight it,” Huntsman told the Associated Press at the time, referring to a GOP lawmaker’s effort to repeal the controversial law. Huntsman also said he would “very seriously consider vetoing” a repeal, according to the AP.

Republican New Hampshire state Rep. Andrew Manuse called Huntsman’s support for the law “exceptionally bothersome and worrisome.”

“The idea that this progressive concept, which is really just socialism, is still around, is disturbing,” Manuse told the Herald. “Anyone who thinks it would get them votes in the Republican party is out of their mind.”

Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller declined to comment on the in-state tuition issue, but said Granite Staters should research his record in Utah.

“I think he’s got a record that will appeal to conservatives,” Miller said.

Huntsman, a former businessman who appears to be gearing up to challenge GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, is in the midst of a five-day swing through New Hampshire. He’s also facing scrutiny for supporting Obama’s stimulus program, a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions and a “path to citizenship” for illegals.

“I think these positions certainly set him apart from most others in the (GOP) field,” said Josh Dorner, spokesman for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. “We want to make sure that everyone is aware of some of the really important progressive issues in his past … which we think are something to be proud of.”

Huntsman also is facing questions from Republicans regarding his ambassadorship to China.

“One of the most damaging things to him … is that he served in the Obama administration,” said Andrew Hemingway of the Republican Liberty Caucus in New Hampshire. “That is a really hard thing for a lot of people.”

But, Hemingway added: “He definitely has a niche in this primary field. It could be really interesting to see.”