Romney Offers Few Details On Immigration in Speech to Latino Leaders


Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Mitt Romney pledged that he would swiftly reform the nation’s immigration system before a group of Latino elected officials Thursday, but sidestepped the question of whether he would end President Obama’s new policy to suspend the deportation of some young undocumented immigrants.

In a speech before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said: “Some people have asked if I will let stand the president’s executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure. As president, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure…. I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner.”

Under pressure to outline his own position since the administration’s announcement last Friday, Romney used the occasion to speak to the plight of the millions of undocumented immigrants already living the country.

“Our immigration system should help promote strong families, not keep them apart. Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof. But, today, too many families are caught in a broken system that costs them time and money and entangles them in red tape.”

Romney promised that, as president, he would reallocate and end caps on green cards for some families, update the temporary worker visa program and work toward creating a path to citizenship for those who serve in the military. He also pledged that for those undocumented immigrants who have earned advanced degrees in this country: “We will staple a green card to your diploma.”

While immigration remains important to many Latinos, the economy remains issue number one for most Hispanic voters. Romney bridged the two, saying, “Immigration reform is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity as well.”

While Romney has largely avoided the issue of immigration in the general election campaign, earlier in the Republican primary season he advocated implementing policies that would encourage undocumented people to “self-deport,” as well as promising to veto the Dream Act. He also praised Arizona for its law requiring employers to check the legal status of all job applicants.

We will staple a green card to your diploma

The conference continues for a second day Friday, with President Obama scheduled to speak in the afternoon. In the meantime, Romney sought to head off the president’s message to Latino voters, who went largely for Mr. Obama in 2008, saying he is “taking your vote for granted.”

“President Obama will … imply that you really don’t have an alternative,” Romney warned. “I’ve come here today with a simple message: You do have an alternative. Your vote should be respected. And your voice is more important now than ever before.”

Indeed, NALEO projected that Latino voters are expected to turn out in record numbers this year, with at least 12.2 million expected to cast ballots this year — many in crucial swing states like Colorado, Virginia and here in Florida.

The mood at the conference was largely festive, perhaps due to the fact that it took place at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, a stone’s throw from the Magic Kingdom. (In the “Fantasia Ballroom,” nonetheless!) Romney received a mostly welcome reception from the audience of 1,000 assembled elected and public officials. His pledge to repeal the current health care law got only a lukewarm reaction from the crowd, followed by a lone “boo,” but he exited to sustained applause.

After Romney’s speech, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took the stage. Speaking intermittently in English and Spanish, he focused mainly on education, calling it the “catalytic converter” of our society. He highlighted Romney’s education plan that would put greater emphasis on school choice, saying, in a nod to his audience: “Choice is as American as apple pie….Or as American as un taco de carbon.”