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Today, Mitt Romney speaks before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, just two days before he will take questions from Univisión anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas. Given Romney’s poor standing with Latino voters and Latinos’ importance in numerous 2012 battleground states, this week’s Latino-focused appearances have reached mission critical status for Mitt Romney. And, as America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry notes in a new Huffington Post piece on Romney’s problems with Latino voters and immigration, “If Mitt goes to Los Angeles and Miami with the same talking points he’s used with Latino audiences to date, don’t even bother showing up. Heck, if that’s the plan, the Obama campaign would probably be willing to pay your airfare.”
However, despite the importance of improving Romney’s standing among Latinos, early evidence shows that the candidate seems intent to let the opportunity slip from his grasp. Judging from the advance remarks issued by the Romney campaign of today’s U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce speech, it is clear that Romney once again prefers vague platitudes instead of immigration policy specifics. Romney’s remarks state, “I will work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently fix our immigration system. We will never achieve a legal immigration system that is fair and efficient if we do not first get control of our borders. I believe we can all agree that what we need are fair and enforceable immigration laws that will stem the flow of illegal immigration, while strengthening legal immigration.” Yawn.
“There’s absolutely nothing new in Romney’s remarks – he remains unwilling to disavow his hardline immigration stances or continued associations with the Kris Kobachs of the world,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “While Romney is content to call for a permanent fix to immigration, as he does in his advance remarks today, we still await answers to the key immigration questions: if he’s President, what will happen to the DREAMers who President Obama moved to protect and who now are applying for deferred action status? And what will happen to the rest of the undocumented immigrant population living and raising families in America, given that Romney sees Arizona’s immigration approach as a ‘model’ for the nation and has not retreated one inch from his ‘self-deportation’ stance? The only thing bold about Mitt Romney’s remarks is his belief that he can get away with offering platitudes instead of policy substance and that it will somehow win over Latino voters.”
Romney’s remarks also include an attack on President Obama for not delivering on his promise to fix immigration. While America’s Voice has been critical of the Obama Administration for not making immigration reform a higher priority early on, the Republican talking point that the President and Democrats never tried to advance immigration reform is a rich bit of revisionist history given that Republican obstruction was the primary factor behind the lack of legislative progress on immigration. For example the DREAM Act, which Romney pledged to veto, would be our law of the land if Republicans had not voted against it by a 36-3 margin in the Senate in December 2010. Despite passing the House and winning a majority of votes in the Senate, a Republican filibuster meant that the bill would have to clear 60 to become law. It fell just five votes short.
As Sharry writes in Huffington Post to the Romney campaign, “Truth is, instead of an Etch-a-Sketch, what your campaign really needs is a time machine – one that would transport you back to the primaries where, if you had you adopted a more nuanced set of immigration positions, you would have more room now to move towards the center…Don’t be surprised by a chilly reception at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, many of whom are small business men and women proud of their immigrant roots and families. And don’t be shell-shocked when Jorge Ramos tears your guy a new one.”
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