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Mitt Romney's Answer on Deferred Action for DREAMers Fails to Reassure

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After months of ducking questions about what he would do with President Obama’s deferred action policy, Mitt Romney finally said something that was responsive yesterday in an interview with the Denver Post.

This is what he said:

“The people who have 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. I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased…Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”

This is what Frank Sharry, our executive director, said to that:

“Finally, Romney has said clearly that he will not rescind work permits for DREAMers who have already received them.  This is welcome news, but given the background of his hard line views and his continuing avoidance of what will happen to millions of other people, it is but a small step forward.  For example, let’s say that 100,000 have earned – not ‘purchased’ – work permits by the time of Inauguration Day.  What about the other 1.3 million people eligible for the DREAMer deferred action program?  Will Romney keep the policy in place and enable them to apply?  Will he renew the program after two years?  What is his secret reform plan that he promises to put in place?  Self-deportation except for those who serve in the military?  If it’s to benefit DREAMers, why won’t he disavow his earlier promise to veto the DREAM Act?  His failure to address these fundamental question leaves a lot of uncertainty for Latino immigrants and voters.”

As we’ve said for months, Romney has deeply wedged himself between a nativist rock and a demographic hard place – afraid to stand up to the loud but not large nativist wing of the GOP, but also wary of alienating even further the sizable and growing Latino voting population.

Fareed Zakaria extrapolated on that point in a Washington Post op-ed last week where he noted that any further details from the Romney camp on immigration would set off a “firestorm in his party.”   Writes Zakaria:

“Romney has curried favor within the party by opposing the Dream Act, supporting Arizona’s harsh law under which police check people’s immigration status at will and proposing ‘self-deportation’ as a way to get rid of undocumented immigrants.  At Hispanic forums in recent weeks, Romney has said that he wants to solve the immigration issue permanently but has spoken about it in vague terms…Romney has tried to run a campaign while not running afoul of his party’s strictures.  As a result, he has twisted himself into a pretzel, speaking vacuously, avoiding specifics and refusing to provide any serious plans for the most important issues of the day.”

Added Sharry, “On deferred action, Romney is trying very hard to say things that make him sound moderate without picking a fight with his base.  If Romney really wants to turn a new leaf on immigration and distance himself from the hardline stances he took during the GOP primary, he’ll need to disavow the specific promises he made in the primary and get specific about the vague positions he is staking out in the general.”