Romney wants “long-term” immigration fix, but short on details
Romney would not say whether he would undo President Obama’s new order halting deportations for “DREAMers.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Sunday he would work as president to pass a law providing “long-term” relief for undocumented youth, criticizing President Obama’s new policy as a politically-motivated, stop-gap measure.
But Romney declined to expand on what his plan would entail and wouldn’t say whether he would undo Obama’s new initiative that temporarily halts deportations for certain undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. at a young age, which appeared to energize the president’s Latino supporters ahead of the November election.
“My anticipation is I’d come into office and say we need to get this done, on a long-term basis, not this kind of stop-gap measure,” Romney said during an interview that aired on CBS’s Face the Nation program. “I would work with Congress to put in place a long-term solution for the children of those that have come here illegally.”
Romney sidestepped when asked repeatedly by CBS’s Bob Schieffer whether he would wipe out Obama’s new policy while searching for a legislative solution.
“We’ll look at that setting as we reach that,” he said.
Obama’s new policy put pressure on Romney by seizing control of the issue and prodding his opponent to define his position on immigration. It dredged up hard-line statements that the former Massachusetts governor made during the GOP presidential primary that turned off Latino voters, who could play a decisive role in critical swing states such as Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
But since the primary concluded, Romney has repeatedly suggested he would seek out a more accommodating policy toward young undocumented immigrants seeking a higher education or military service, such as an alternative DREAM Act, in part to help repair his image among Latinos.
But that stance could alienate conservatives whom he worked hard to court during the primary while opening himself up to charges of flip-flopping.
Obama’s new policy undercut a similar plan being drafted by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would provide temporary legal status for certain undocumented youth that Romney suggested he may support.
“This is something Congress has been working on, and I thought we were about to see some proposals brought forward by Senator Marco Rubio and by Democrat senators, but the president jumped in and said I’m going to take this action,” Romney said.
White House senior adviser David Plouffe questioned Romney’s sincerity, checking off a laundry list of statements that Romney made on immigration such as his claim that he would veto the current version of the DREAM Act —stalled legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth — and his support for tough enforcement measures that would cause undocumented immigrants to “self-deport.”
“We need a permanent fix, we agree,” Plouffe said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “The only way to do that if for Congress to pass the DREAM act. Sadly, Governor Romney has said he would veto the DREAM Act.”
Obama’s move appears to be paying political dividends. Immigrant activists who has previously expressed disappointment in Obama’s deportation policies staged rallies around the country to support his new initiative. A new Latino Decisions poll showed that the president’s new policy made almost half of Latino voters more enthusiastic about supporting him. Only 14 percent said it made them less enthusiastic.
Romney slammed Obama’s move as a naked election-year ploy for Latino voters, calling that a “a big part of the equation” for the White House.
“What the president did, he should have worked on this years ago, if he felt seriously about this he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn’t. He saves these sort of things until four and a half months before the general election,” he said on CBS.
Although the political benefits for Obama are abundantly evident, Plouffe denied that motivated the administration’s decision, saying that the Department of Homeland Security based the move on its existing enforcement priorities.
“This is not a political move,” Plouffe said on CNN. “It builds on steps we’ve already taken.”