Even by the standards of Mitt Romney, his immigration policy is incoherent.
Romney this weekend criticized President Barack Obama for his decision to suspend deportation of roughly one million undocumented aliens whose parents brought them into the country as children. Despite repeated questioning, however, Romney refused to say whether he would reverse the decision.
“With regard to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so that they know what their status is,” Romney told Bob Schieffer on CBS’ Face the Nation. But he did not indicate what policy he would support.
When pressed by Schieffer, Romney would only say that Obama’s suspension of deportation “would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution, with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals such that they know what their setting is going to be, not just for the term of a president but on a permanent basis.”
Romney did not say what long-term solution he supported or what legislation he backed.
Romney positioned himself to the far right of his party during the Republican primaries. He attacked his challenger, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, for supporting the DREAM Act, legislation that would give those undocumented immigrants affected by Obama’s directive a permanent understanding of their long-term status. Calling it a “magnet for illegal immigration,” Romney pledged to veto it if elected president.
Romney has also utilized Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kolbach as an advisor on immigration. Kolbach is one of the leaders of the extreme anti-immigration movement who worked with former Arizona State Sen. Russel Pearce, R-Mesa, to draft the controversial Arizona anti-immigration law. He also trained deputies for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on federal immigration enforcement.
Romney is no longer running in the Republican primaries, however, and may be looking to gently shake the Etch-a-Sketch on his hardcore immigration opposition. Columnist George Will said on Sunday that Romney risks losing if his share of the Latino vote falls below 31 percent. Americans as a whole are not nearly as anti-immigration as the GOP base. In a close election, Romney can’t afford to alienate potential voters.
Romney has tried to moderate his positions somewhat, even going so far as to tentatively support a watered-down version of the DREAM Act that was floated by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., before being withdrawn on Monday.
Romney is constrained, however, by the alliances he forged in the primaries and by his own words. Kolbach has already said that Rubio’s proposal is flatly unacceptable to the anti-immigration wing of the GOP, even in principle. Even if rumors that Kolbach will be cashiered from the campaign are true, Romney will have to hold on to anti-immigrant Republicans in order to win in November, too.
These competing factors are why Romney is attempting not to say anything whatsoever on immigration right now. No matter what he says, it creates electoral trouble. So he will keep trying to evade questioning, and hope that he can bluff his way to November. It will be up to voters to decide if that’s acceptable.
Image Credit: Donkey Hotey