Mitt Romney slammed President Obama for failing to “lead” on immigration in a statement responding to the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s SB 1070 law. Yet, in what has become a signature move for the candidate, he offered no clear position himself, leaving Americans to wonder what exactly he would “lead” them toward.
“President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration,” Romney, who is in Arizona for a fundraiser this afternoon, said. “This represents yet another broken promise by this President. I believe that each state has the duty — and the right — to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities.”
Despite his nod to states’ rights, Romney did not say whether he agreed with any or all of the Supreme Court’s decision, a complicated ruling that labeled several provisions of the law unconstitutional, but left the most controversial segment for later, saying future courts would need time to determine its effects. Nor has Romney taken a position on whether he supports SB 1070 in the first place, despite embracing the architect of the law, Kris Kobach, as an immigration adviser during the presidential primaries. An e-mail to the Romney campaign asking for further clarification on the Supreme Court ruling was not immediately returned and an official told the traveling press not to expect any more comments.
This is part of a pattern in recent months. Romney decisively opposed a number of immigration laws and proposals during the GOP primary, slamming Texas’s law granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, pledging to veto the DREAM Act and denouncing efforts to grant legal status to currently undocumented workers as “amnesty.” But since moving to the general election, Romney’s position has become more vague as to what concrete steps he would take to reform immigration laws as president.
In one telling incident last month, the RNC’s Hispanic outreach director, Bettina Inclan, bluntly told reporters Romney was “still deciding” on his position, before walking the line back.
Romney’s does-he-or-doesn’t-he SB 1070 statement comes on the heels of his prolonged dodge of President Obama’s recent executive order blocking deportation of some young illegal immigrants, refusing to say expressly whether he would overturn the action. A young undocumented college student confronted Romney Thursday after his speech to Latino group NALEO in Florida, and said she didn’t have any better luck getting Romney to articulate a position as to what would happen to her under his administration. Though Romney vowed to “replace and supersede” Obama’s order with a long-term solution, he has offered only scraps of information on what that solution might entail, saying only that he favors some path to legal status for members of the military.
By contrast, President Obama has taken a more aggressive tack in his own speeches recently, accusing Republicans of trying to obscure the two parties’ immigration positions with lamentations that the issue is complicated and requires intense bipartisan negotiations. In his Friday speech to NALEO, Obama issues a full-throated endorsement of two existing immigration bills — the DREAM Act and a failed bipartisan reform bill backed by President Bush that would have included a path to legal status for undocumented residents and a guest-worker program — challenging Republicans to take decisive positions themselves.
“We know what the solutions are to this challenge,” Obama said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.