When it comes to immigration, Mitt Romney holds a lot of positions — from self-deportation to opposing the DREAM Act — that are unpopular with Latino voters. But he does have one effective talking point: President Obama promised to pass immigration reform, held a majority in Congress, but did nothing.
That’s an attack Democrats want to counter.
After Tuesday’s debate, where Romney again accused the president of not following through on his promise to Latinos, two Obama campaign surrogates held a conference call with reporters to push back.
“If it were up to the president and to Democrats, the DREAM Act would be the law of the land today,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) said on the Wednesday call. “If it were up to the president and to Democrats, we’d have comprehensive immigration reform today.”
Becerra recalled that when Obama took office, he brought Democrats and Republicans — including Republicans who previously backed reform — together to work on immigration reform. He also reminded reporters that Democrats in the House passed the DREAM Act in 2010. Both efforts, he said, fell apart because of Republican extremism — and in the case of the DREAM Act, a Senate filibuster.
Romney, Becerra argued, sided with the extremists in his party who were responsible for blocking reform: “Now we have Gov. Romney standing side by side with the most vocal adversaries of our community: Kris Kobach, Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, Steve King, Pete Wilson.”
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), also on the call, slammed Romney over his own positions on immigration, pointing to what he said both in Tuesday night’s debate and in the GOP primary: “Mitt Romney again backed self-deportation. Mitt Romney again said that he was against the DREAM Act. Mitt Romney again called undocumented immigrants ‘illegals.’”
After a question about whether Obama would pass a reform bill in a second term, Becerra and Velázquez again stressed that it was Romney’s party that took reform off the table.
“Let’s just dispel this notion once and for all that Democrats with the president did not do anything,” Becerra said, noting again passage of the DREAM Act in the House.
“When the president realized — it became very clear — that the Republicans were going to stop every effort he made on immigration, and on other things,” Becerra said, “[the Deferred Action policy] that the president took is a response to Republicans who refused to let anything happen in Congress.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.