Roy Beck's picture


  by  Roy Beck

I'm starting to get a lot of media calls about our assessment of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) who is being mentioned on a short-list for vice-presidential running mates for Mitt Romney.  My answers are textured, but the bottom line is that his career immigration record in Congress earns him an overall Career D+ and a percentage rating that is the seventh worst of all 289 Republicans in the Senate and House.

Like most bad Republicans (but not the very worst), Sen. Portman has been good on border security (A+) and on denying benefits to illegal aliens (A-minus).

In those two categories, he would appear to be matched with Gov. Romney who has excellent positions.

Sen. Portman is also relatively decent on interior enforcement (C+) but with a career record that raises grave concerns about whether he agrees with Romney on mandatory national E-Verify and taking away the jobs magnet for illegal immigration.


  • Back in 1996, then-Rep. Portman voted against Rep. Gallegly's amendment to require what became known as E-Verify for every employer in America.  If Gallegly's amendment had become law, I have no doubt that the illegal population  would only be about a fourth or a third as large as it is today  and that illegal immigration would not be an issue in this year's elections because it would be so small.
  • Furthermore, Rep. Portman voted on another amendment to kill the "E-Verify" program altogether.  He didn't even want there to be a four-state pilot voluntary program.
  • Nonetheless in later years, he did vote to re-authorize the voluntary E-Verify program after it became available in all 50 states.
  • But even though making E-Verify mandatory has been the top priority activity among pro-enforcement Members of Congress, Portman NEVER co-sponsored a bill.


Romney would be creating a lot of problems with his voting base and with independents by picking a running mate who earned an F-minus on amnesty during his 1993-2004 stint in the U.S. House.  (He has no grade during his first year and a half in the Senate.)

I'm telling reporters that all the amnesties Portman has supported have been relatively small.  And he hasn't ever co-sponsored any amnesties.  We don't know how he would act if confronted with one of the really big amnesties because they haven't come up for a vote in his chamber at the time he was serving.  For example, we don't know where he would stand on the DREAM Act amnesty, or the AgJOBS amnesty or the Comprehensive Immigration Reform amnesty.


Is Portman a "Bush immigration guy?"  If so, he's nothing but bad news on immigration.  But quite a number of "Bush immigration guys" from the past have cleaned up their act in recent years and started supporting American workers over importing more foreign workers and caving to those who would hire them.

It has been eight years since Portman's last immigration vote in 2004.  Maybe he has changed.  But he has done nothing since being elected to the Senate in 2010 to suggest he has.  He hasn't co-sponsored the mandatory E-Verify bill in the Senate, for example.

What we DO know from his career grades of F-minus on Chain Migration, F-minus on the Visa Lottery and F-minus on unnecessary foreign workers is that he has rarely made immigration decisions that give priority to the needs of American workers and their families or the quality of life of the average American taxpayer. 

Twice, he voted to take the setting of immigration numbers out of the hands of Congress in the future by guaranteeing high flows of skilled immigrants in internationally binding trade agreements.

I bear no hostility toward Sen. Portman personally and am hopeful he will some day soon become an ally.  I tried to meet with him when he was in the U.S. House but was given audience only with staff. So, I don't know him.  I know people who do know him and who suggest he is a quality human being. But unless he begins to move his immigration positions toward the interests of the American people, our reaction to his being considered for a vice presidential pick would have to be aggressively negative.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

Updated: Wed, May 16th 2012 @ 3:58pm EDT

NumbersUSA's blogs are copyrighted and may be republished or reposted only if they are copied in their entirety, including this paragraph, and provide proper credit to NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA bears no responsibility for where our blogs may be republished or reposted. The views expressed in blogs do not necessarily reflect the official position of NumbersUSA.