It is time for presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to shake the Etch-a-Sketch, most notably on his heretofore hardline stance on immigration.

And with the nomination secured, Romney appears to be softening his position, which includes distancing himself from notorious anti-immigration crusader Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state whom Romney once hailed as “a true leader” on the issue of illegal immigration.

Romney now finds himself in a tough spot with the nation’s Hispanics going into the general election — and with those who in general think illegal immigration can be dealt with in ways other than walling off the nation, asking our cops to track down illegals and deporting them en masse.

If Romney is going to unseat President Barack Obama, he has to be more thoughtful than that.

Instead of Kobach, Romney now is aligning himself with immigration figures such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who even has been mentioned as a vice presidential running mate. Rubio’s views are far different than Kobach’s. He is working on a proposal to help some undocumented immigrants stay in the country legally though not extend citizenship.

Kobach said Romney had room to “embrace both of us,” and actually he might be right.

Tough enforcement of the law can coexist with a more generous — and practical — work visa program.

Romney could embrace one element of the Kobach-authored Arizona illegal immigration law in some form — workplace enforcement. That is where illegal immigration can be best controlled. Employers should be held to the law, and if illegals can’t find work because of it, that will eliminate much of the problem in a hurry without resorting to walled borders and racial profiling in a police state.

At the same time, many industries depend on immigrant labor, and greater allowances are needed to preserve the immigrant work force. And this country should not deprive itself of what bright, talented immigrants could offer as citizens if offered the opportunity to succeed here.

Romney needs to clear the slate on this issue to make many voters feel more comfortable about his potential presidency.

— The Hutchinson News