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Recap: Mitt Romney, President Obama, and Their Immigration Answers on Univision This Week

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It’s been quite a week in immigration.  Mitt Romney and President Obama each appeared on Univision with anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas this week, and both failed to adequately answer questions posed to them about immigration and their history of stances on immigration policy.

First, Romney.  This is the candidate whom, during the primaries, espoused hard-right-wing anti-immigrant positions: he vowed to veto the DREAM Act, called Arizona’s SB 1070 a “model” for the nation, and supported self-deportation.  But this week, in front of Univision and a Hispanic audience, Romney was vaguer, refusing to answer questions as to what he would do about President Obama’s deferred action for DREAMers program, saying that he believed immigrants who want to serve in the military should be given a pathway to status, and repeatedly saying that “we’re not going to round up 12 million people…and have everyone deported.  Our system isn’t to deport people.”

“Except that’s exactly what Mr. Romney’s ‘system’ seems to be,” the New York Times editorial board and columnist Lawrence Downes wrote today.

From today’s  New York Times editorial:

His informal adviser Kris Kobach wrote the radical laws enacted by Arizona and other states that seek to make it impossible for illegal immigrants to survive and much easier for police to round them up. And Mr. Romney has praised Arizona as a model for the nation.

Mr. Romney talks vaguely about possibly exempting a fraction of the undocumented from the purge — service members, maybe some students — but he has never backed away from those on the hard right for whom mass legalization is unthinkable. So if Mr. Romney won’t give 11 million people a way to be legal (that’s “amnesty,” rejected by Republicans), and he is not going to deport them, but he supports Arizona-style laws that make people unable to work, drive, study or otherwise live, then … what?

Mr. Romney wouldn’t say.

President Obama, a day later, didn’t have entirely satisfactory answers either.  In 2008, candidate Obama vowed to make immigration “a top priority in my first year as President.”  But in the last week, he has been claiming that he didn’t  promise to complete immigration reform in his first term. Jorge Ramos didn’t accept that response. From the NYT editorial:

Jorge Ramos repeatedly reminded Mr. Obama that he had pledged to fix the problem in his first four years: “You promised,” he said, “and a promise is a promise.”

Mr. Obama’s reply was that he had tried, that the economy was terrible, and that a president can’t require Congress to act. It was good to see him forced to acknowledge his failure, though we wish he had been pressed harder about the deportation efforts his administration has expanded, like Secure Communities, which have led to the removal of tens of thousands of noncriminals and left thousands of citizen children in foster care.

And while the President has brought hope to 1.7 million DREAMers with his deferred action program, the failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform means that immigrant parents, siblings, and families are still left waiting in the shadows.  As the NYT editorial concluded:

There are about 11 million people waiting for the government to fix the broken system. They did not get satisfactory answers in Miami this week.

And—side note—we entirely agree with commentators this week who have been lauding Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas for their excellent grilling of both candidates.  They were dogged, they tried hard to follow through with their questions, and made a serious effort to push the candidates past vague talking points.  As a cable news commentator told Politico:

We could all learn a thing or two from Jorge Ramos.

Yes, indeed they could.