At NALEO, Mitt Romney's speech perfectly summarized what he has to offer Latinos: nothing. No amount of evasive rhetoric and vague pleasantries will hide the basic fact that Mitt Romney won't stand up for the Dream Act, supports Arizona's discriminatory, anti-immigrant laws and believes immigrants should "self-deport." His views on Latinos and immigration are wrong, extreme and would divide our nation. With President Obama's leadership last week for immigrants, the contrast between Mitt Romney and the President has never been clearer.
The President and his sensible shift in policy to prioritize the deportation of criminals over DREAM Act youth has put Romney and the Republicans in a vise-grip. The President called their bluff. Romney can either stand with the anti-immigrant hawks or he can stand with the American people, including the Latino community, but trying to both will fall flat, like today.
What I saw was a Republican presidential candidate that clearly will not break with the hardest core positions held by some in his anti-immigration base, which then prevents him from moving towards the sensible middle on immigration.
It is a model for the problem Romney and the Republicans have on so many other issues. They are scared of their strongest supporters, which makes it difficult to imagine the Republicans will succeed with other more centrist voters.
On immigration, Romney will try to reconcile the gulf between the Republican base and the rest of the country — and especially Latinos — by being vague and talking in generalities. He avoids saying anything concrete on immigration to prevent upsetting the majority of the American people on the one hand or causing the anti-immigration wing of his party to explode on the other.
So Romney is mum on whether he would deport 800,000 DREAMers and their families by repealing the President's policy. And Romney is mum on what he would do with their families and the rest of the 10 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Romney talks about elements of comprehensive immigration reform, like legal immigration reform and an employment verification system, but will not articulate how to accomplish those reforms without also legalizing some of those already here. He knows that the "self-deportation" fantasy of tens of millions of people leaving the U.S. is not credible, so he would be better off saying nothing, especially when addressing a Latino audience.