Yesterday, Mitt Romney spoke at a candidate’s forum on Univisión, after other recent Latino-focused appearances in front of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and on Telemundo.
There was a bit of revisionist history going on last night in Mitt Romney’s performance on Univisión. And while the crowd of Romney supporters seemed to like it, the rest of the Latino voting community is not going to be so easy.
During these Latino-geared campaign events, instead of focusing on the specifics of what a President Romney would do on immigration, he is instead focusing on what President Obama didn’t do.
That’s not surprising, because the stated Romney positions of vetoing the DREAM Act, requiring 11 million immigrants to self-deport, and passing Arizona-style laws nationwide are just not popular with Latino voters.
But Romney’s immigration answers lack credibility and context.
He said that President Obama took “no action” on immigration early on, and then criticized him for putting in place a temporary “stop-gap” measure administratively for DREAMers.
Instead, Romney pledges to put forward a bipartisan, permanent solution.
Sounds great, but DREAMers would already have a permanent solution in place if Republicans hadn’t blocked it.
In December 2010, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the DREAM Act up for a vote.
President Obama and his cabinet supported it.
The bill cleared the House and won 55 votes in the Senate, but was blocked by a Republican filibuster.
Republican Senators voted against DREAM by a 36-3 margin.
After its failure, DREAMers led a call for administrative relief, which Obama finally announced this summer when it was clear there was no viable path forward on legislation this year.
It’s great that Romney wants a “do over” on a permanent solution.
But, we need to know a couple of things.
Does this permanent solution involve “self-deportation” for the 11 million immigrants here without papers? If not, why did he embrace that position in the primary?
When Jorge Ramos grilled him on this yesterday the audience booed, but people sitting around their television sets cheered. They know “self-deportation” is a sound bite, not a solution.
And, Romney’s refusal to give a direct answer to the question of whether he would keep or cancel Obama’s DREAMer deferred action program is becoming a joke.
Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart and Univisión’s Maria Elena Salinas have both tried to get a straight answer from Romney this week, but he keeps ducking the question.
The only truly revealing thing Romney said on the topic was to refer to DREAMers as “illegal aliens” – parroting the language of the anti-immigrant movement.
Look, the policies matter. Romney embraced harsh immigration positions in the primary, and if his attack ads on President Obama are any measure, we can expect him to keep his promises. Most Latinos know someone who is undocumented.
So pledging to force their family members and friends to pack up and go “home” is just a non-starter.
But it’s also a question of leadership.
Romney made the wrong choice during the primary, siding with extremists instead of embracing a nuanced immigration policy that could transition with him into the general election.
That was a bad decision that he hasn’t been able to overcome.
And now, his refusal to answer simple questions with direct answers is just not very presidential.
Lynn Tramonte is the Deputy Director for America’s Voice, a Washington, D.C. based immigration organization advocating for humane comprehensive immigration reform