Romney tells Latinos he will seek 'long-term solution' to immigration
Mitt Romney offered no specific solutions to immigration, an issue that has thwarted the intentions of presidents since Ronald Reagan's administration.
Tribune Washington bureau
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Mitt Romney offered a family-friendly approach to the nation's immigration troubles in his first general-election outreach to Latino voters, but the modest steps that he sketched underscored the political pull-and-tug the issue has become for the presumed Republican presidential nominee.
His more moderate tone Thursday on a number of side issues contrasted with the tougher stance he took during the GOP primaries. Yet in outlining the path he would take as president, he declined to take on the larger and thornier problem of the 11 million men, women and children already in the country illegally.
Speaking to the same audience of Latino officials that President Obama will address Friday, Romney said he wouldn't "settle for stopgap measures" like the policy Obama announced last week to prevent the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants. Instead, he said he would work with lawmakers of both parties to "build a long-term solution."
"I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it more transparent and easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner," he told the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. "We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it."
But he offered no specific solutions to an issue that has thwarted the intentions of presidents since Ronald Reagan's administration.
Romney accused Obama of taking the Latino vote for granted and criticized him for doing "nothing, nothing" to fix the larger problem. The administration's new deportation policy is little more than a ploy by a politician "facing a tough re-election and trying to secure your vote," he added.
The former Massachusetts governor said Latinos "do have an alternative, and your vote is more important now than ever before." Romney acknowledged the growing power of Latino voters in a backhanded way earlier this year, warning a private gathering of Republican donors that the current Democratic trend among Latino voters "spells doom" for Republicans, unless it is reversed.
Romney's plan included expanding the availability of green cards for relatives of legal residents and highly educated foreign students, and offering potential citizenship to service members.
Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida drew a far more enthusiastic response. Bush, fluent in Spanish and a dark-horse candidate to be Romney's running mate, praised Romney as having given an "excellent speech."
Romney "presented a much softer image than the image you saw in the campaign," said Dario Mareno, a Florida International University political scientist. "Basically, I think the purpose here was to show that he is not a villain, to make him less scary to Latinos."
If elected, Romney would have to either suspend or continue Obama's new deportation policy, estimated to affect between 800,000 and 1.4 million young illegal immigrants. In his remarks, the Republican said he would "replace and supersede" the president's policy but offered no details.
During the primaries, Romney said those here illegally should "self-deport" and leave the country. He opposed the DREAM Act, which would have given a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants in college or the military. And he backed tough anti-illegal-immigrant policies in Arizona.
Also Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was formally named the next president of Purdue University, virtually assuring he will not be the vice-presidential pick.
Daniels will assume the job in January, when his term concludes and a new governor is sworn in. Until then, he will not be stumping for Republicans, including Romney. "Effective immediately, I will recuse myself from any partisan political activities or commentary," Daniels said.
Material from The Washington Post is included in this report.