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Last night, at the GOP Presidential debate in South Carolina, hosted by FOX News and The Wall Street Journal, Mitt Romney reiterated his opposition to the DREAM Act, calling it a “mistake.” Romney also renewed his vow to veto the legislation.
Ironically, Mitt Romney speaks a lot about opportunity. What Mitt doesn’t get — or doesn’t want to get — is that the DREAM Act is all about opportunity. To review, the DREAM Act would enable young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents, often as babies, to work towards citizenship by graduating from high school, speaking English fluently, going to college or serving in our military, and being a productive member of society. That defines opportunity.
Instead, Mitt has chosen to pander to the hard-right immigrant bashers. As pundits and politicos have been saying for weeks now: This is going to hurt Mitt in the general election. No doubt, Romney and his advisors think they can pivot to a more centrist approach when and if he wraps up the nomination (he should talk to his supporter Meg Whitman, who lost the race for Governor in California in 2010, about that idea.) That will never happen given Romney’s insistence on vetoing the DREAM Act. A “handout” and a “mistake”? The real mistake is Romney’s vicious anti-immigrant strategy. He can’t say he wasn’t warned.
Here’s the transcript of the Q and A between Romney and Juan Williams:
WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, your father was born in Mexico. You still have family there, yet you have taken the hardest line of anyone on this stage on immigration reform, including opposition to key parts of the DREAM Act, which is supported by 80 percent of Latinos in this country. Are you alienating Latino voters that Republicans will need to win the general election?
ROMNEY: You know, I think Latino voters, like all voters in this country, are interested in America being an opportunity nation. People come here because they believe they want to have a brighter future and that’s been the story of America. The president looks out across the country and says it could be worse. I can’t believe saying that. The American people recognize it’s got to be better.
In my view, as long as we communicate to the people of all backgrounds in this country that it can be better, and that America is a land of opportunity, we will get those votes.
Now with regards to immigration policy, I absolutely believe that those who come here illegally should not be given favoritism or a special route to becoming permanent residents or citizens that’s not given to those people who have stayed in line legally. I just think we have to follow the law, I think that’s the right course.
ROMNEY: And I have indicated I would veto the DREAM Act if provisions included in that act to say that people who are here illegally, if they go to school here long enough, get a degree here that they can become permanent residents.
I think that’s a mistake. I think we have to follow the law and insist those who come here illegally, ultimately return home, apply, and get in line with everyone else.
Look, I want people to know I love legal immigration. Almost all of us in this room are descendants of immigrants or are immigrants ourselves. Our nation is stronger and more vibrant by virtue of a strong legal immigration system.
But to protect our legal immigration system we have got to protect our borders and stop the flood of illegal immigration and I will not do anything that opens up another wave of illegal immigration.