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Mitt Romney Hasn't Moved to the Middle on Immigration — He's Moved Further Right

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Spurred by his first debate performance, some observers argue that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has started to “move to the middle” on a variety of issues, including immigration.  For example, Karen Tumulty’s front-page headline today in the Washington Post was said, “Romney shifts to more moderate stances on taxes, immigration, healthcare, education.”   The headline for Justin Sink’s piece in The Hill was “Romney moves to the center, shows new ease on campaign trail,” and it highlights immigration along with financial reform, tax policies, healthcare and abortion as issues in which Romney has moved toward the center.  Both pieces Romney’s recent comments in which he said, as Tumulty puts it, “he would not revoke the deportation reprieves of those who were granted permission to stay.”

Hold the phone.  Did Romney say he would keep in place work permits for those few Dreamers who had already received them?  Yes.  But his campaign also made it clear that he would pull the plug on the vast majority of Dreamers who have yet to receive work permits.  What does this mean?  That at most some 100,000 Dreamers would be safe, while an estimated 1.3 million Dreamers would be left in the cold.

To clarify: in an interview with the Denver Post last week, Romney said, “The people who received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid.”  At first, this seemed like a softening of his stance.  We even issued a statement calling it a “step in the right direction.”

However, a follow-up clarification to the Boston Globe and New York Times from the Romney campaign told the whole story.  As described by Boston Globe correspondent Callum Borchers: “Romney’s campaign said he would honor deportation exemptions issued by the Obama administration before his inauguration but would not grant new ones after taking office.”  Julia Preston of the New York Times similarly featured a Romney campaign aide commenting, “We’re not going to continue Obama’s program…We’re going to replace it and would only honor visas already issued.”

Meaning?  Approximately 200 DREAMers had received their work permits as of last week.  It is our best guess that by the time of Inauguration Day rolls around, no more than 100,000 DREAMers will actually have their work permits in hand.  With 1.4 million young people eligible, the Romney stance means that only a fraction of the people who would benefit from the DACA program will actually receive protection.  Yes, he’s promised some sort of undefined “permanent solution,” but we’re a bit skeptical.  His promise in the primaries to oppose anything that smacks of “amnesty” and to veto the DREAM Act, combined with his embrace of hardliners like Kris Kobach and Steve King, hardly suggest that a pro-immigrant “permanent solution” for Dreamers would be a priority for a new Romney Administration.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director here at America’s Voice:

The idea that Romney has moved to the middle on immigration is poppycock.  It may have sounded that way at first, but then his campaign made it clearer than ever before that as President he will gut a program that currently promises to help 1.4 million Dreamers.  That’s not moving to the center, that’s moving hard right.

Polls demonstrate that the Obama initiative, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, is enormously popular with Latinos and the general public.  A CNN/ORC poll on immigration policy released last week found that a whopping 64% of registered voters said the new policy was “about right” while 15% said it does not go far enough.  Only 18% said the program goes too far.

Meanwhile, a series of state-based polls of Latino voters in the key battleground states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Nevada show that the President’s move has increased enthusiasm and support for the President.  After hearing about the President’s deferred action policy, the vast majority of respondents in each state said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama– 64%, 54%, 53% and 63% in Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Nevada respectively.  No wonder that in the head to head match ups, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by whopping margins – 80%-14% in Arizona, 69%-17% in Colorado, 61%-31% in Florida, and 78%-17% in Nevada.

Added Sharry:

Romney lurched far right in the Republican primary, and has never disavowed his hard right positions and his hard right friends.  Sure, he’s tried to throw some sand in our faces and pretend to be moving to the middle.  But any candidate who vows to strip away the futures of more than a million young people who are Americans in all but paperwork is not a centrist, but an extremist.  The bottom line is this: a vote for Romney will be a vote against more than a million Dreamers.