Addressing whether he would do away with President Obama's new plan to grant temporary legal status to some undocumented young people who came to the United States as minors, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said today at a Latino elected leaders' conference:
The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure.
As President, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner.
Now the question is what kind of long-term solution or solutions Romney is talking about. His statement was made during a speech at a conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, or NALEO, outside Orlando, Fla. Some of his remarks were interesting in that they're a departure from Romney's earlier campaign rhetoric, which included included talk of "self-deportation" and a generally tougher stance during the candidates' debates.
The shift was noticed, if not necessarily applauded. As the Washington Post quoted conference attendee David Valenzuela, a city council member from Phoenix:
“If that message was heard a few months ago, it would mean more today,” Valenzuela said of Romney’s advocacy for broader immigration reform. “But if that message was heard a few months ago, he probably would not be the Republican nominee.”
Romney is the unofficial GOP nominee-apparent, to be clear. But his possible future running mate, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, had proposed introducing a slimmed down alternative to the decade-old Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, with the idea of granting temporary legal status to undocumented college students and military hopefuls. But Obama's decision to grant similar temporary status to young people under 30, provided they meet certain criteria, has pretty much made Rubio's plan moot.
It will be interesting to see where Romney goes on immigration next as he attempts to woo Latino voters. During his speech today, excerpts of which were posted by CNN, Romney brought up immigrant entrepreneurs, immigrants with advanced degrees and improving the process for granting temporary worker visas, topics covered under the proposed bipartisan Startup Act 2.0.
Romney also brought up immigrants in the military, and this, which was interesting:
As President, I will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service.
Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America.
A military-only version of the DREAM Act was discussed earlier this year during the GOP presidential debates, and officially introduced in the House by a Florida lawmaker after Romney's then-rival Newt Gingrich said he'd support such a bill. Romney has expressed opposition to the original DREAM Act, which would benefit young people who either go to college or join the military, provided they arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and otherwise qualify.
CNN has more excerpts from Romney's speech, including more on what he had to say about immigration. Obama is expected to address the NALEO conference tomorrow.