The other day, Mitch McConnell said that Republicans were not going to take a position on Obama’s new anti-deportation policy until Mitt Romney signaled his own stance on it, which McConnell predicted would happen at today’s speech to Hispanic elected officials. “We’re going to wait and see what Governor Romney has to say,” McConnell said.
If McConnell is hoping for more clarity than Romney has offered so far, he’s going to have to keep waiting. During his speech today, Romney again declined to say directly what he would do about Obama’s policy.
Here’s the key bit, from the prepared remarks:
Last week, the President finally offered a temporary measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election. After three and a half years of putting every issue from loan guarantees for his donors to Cash For Clunkers before immigration, now the President has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on Day One. I think you deserve better.
Some people have asked if I will let stand the President’s executive action. 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.
The most charitable interpretation of this is that Romney is signaling that he will let Obama’s policy stand until he comes up with a long-term replacement, but just isn’t willing to say so in those terms. In this interpretation, Romney would not repeal Obama’s order, which would put him at odds with conservatives who are trying to roll it back. But again, he’s not quite willing to say this, and it’s even less clear what he would do if he and Congress don’t come up with a “long term solution.” Would he leave Obama’s policy — no more deportations for hundreds of thousands of DREAM-eligible youth, depending on certain factors — in place indefinitely?
As for Romney’s vow of a long term solution, the problem with that is that he didn’t detail what that long term solution would be. Romney essentially hinted that he would embrace Marco Rubio’s solution — which isn’t even going to be introduced as a bill this year — without saying so.
Romney did repeat that he supports legal status for illegal aliens who want to join the military. But that would impact an estimated 30,000 people, according to Frank Sharry of America’s Voice. He talked about reducing the waiting period for Green Card holders who are trying to get Green Cards for spouses and children, and argued for giving Green Cards to college grads. Both of those are good things, and both have broad support. But they wouldn’t do anything to address the big policy elephant in the room, i.e., what to do about 11 million illegal immigrants — a problem Romney responded to mainly by suggesting more enforcement. And he didn’t address what he’d do about the DREAMers with any specificity.
“He threw sand in the face of his audience, to try to make himself sound like an immigration reformer,” says Sharry, who has said positive things about Rubio’s DREAM alternative. “The best you can say about his speech is that he was saying, `I’m not the nativist I played in the primaries.’”
Romney bashed Obama for not having a long term solution (Obama supports the Dem DREAM Act, which Romney would veto, and a path to citizenship for the millions of others currently in the U.S. who meet certain critera), while failing to offer any meaningful specifics as to what his own long term alternative would look like. The question now is what the Republicans who were waiting for direction from Romney will take from this.