Mitt Romney did not say anything new on immigration in a Monday speech billed by his campaign as an example of a new specifics-oriented push from the campaign. Instead, Romney reasserted stances that Hispanic advocates say have kept him way back in the polls.
Romney reiterated many of his existing views on immigration to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Monday. The only real difference following his campaign’s promise to offer more specifics on a raft of issues this week was a harsher tone than he’s used before.
When Romney spoke at the NALEO conference in June, he attacked President Obama’s executive order enacting parts of the DREAM Act, and promised to make it easier for legal immigrants to navigate the system. He did the same thing Monday before the Hispanic Chamber, and he also threw around a hot-button word in the immigration fight.
“I oppose amnesty, because amnesty will make it harder, not easier to strengthen our legal immigration system,” Romney said. It’s not a new stance: Romney’s opposition to “amnesty” has been a cornerstone of his campaign so far.
Romney did not mention “amnesty” at NALEO. The word tends to turn off Latino advocates, and Democrats say the term is basically meaningless to the current debate.
“Mitt Romney from the beginning is saying that anything short of deportation is amnesty, and that’s a fallacy,” Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX) told TPM on a DNC conference call pushing back at Romney’s Hispanic Chamber speech Monday.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) said the term can rankle Hispanics.
“It makes it very clear that Mitt Romney meant what he said about vetoing the DREAM Act,” he said of Romney’s use of “amnesty” in the speech. “Because for Gov. Romney and many Republicans, the DREAM Act is tantamount to amnesty.”
Romney’s only mention of the DREAM Act came in his attack on Obama’s executive order, which Romney called a “a ‘stopgap measure’” created by Obama “in the midst of a difficult re-election.” Obama himself admitted that the move was “a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people” when he announced the decision in June.
Just as he did at the NALEO speech in June, Romney declined to say what he’d do with the people given temporary legal status under Obama’s executive order, promising only to “pursue permanent immigration reform” and reiterating his support for a path to citizenship for DREAM-eligible immigrants who serve in the military. Some DREAMers have called Romney’s support for a military-only DREAM Act insulting.
Pema Levy contributed to this report.