The Washington Post

Romney shows some leg on immigration

Mitt Romney laid out his immigration plan today in a speech for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando. As for President Obama’s executive order for those brought here when they were under the age of 16 (a nearly unverifiable condition), he said: “I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President’s temporary measure.” Translation: The Obama executive order goes when he goes.

After promising to work with Congress to address immigration in a “civil but resolute manner,” he spelled out the other components:

As I have said many times, it is critical that we redouble our efforts to secure the borders. That means both preventing illegal border crossings and making it harder to illegally overstay a visa. We should field enough border patrol agents, complete a high-tech fence, and implement an improved exit verification system. . . .

As President, I will reallocate Green Cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof. We will exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents. And we will eliminate other forms of bureaucratic red tape that keep families from being together. . . .

I will work with states and employers to update our temporary worker visa program so that it meets our economic needs.

And if you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here — so we will staple a green card to your diploma. We want the best and brightest to enrich the nation through the jobs and technologies they will help create. . . .

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. . . .

We must also make legal immigration more attractive than illegal immigration, so that people are rewarded for waiting patiently in line. That’s why my administration will establish a strong employment verification system so that every business can know with confidence that the people it hires are legally eligible for employment.

It is more comprehensive than what the president has put forth since it deals with temporary guest workers, actual citizenship for those who serve in the military and some family unification procedures. But neither the president nor Romney have said what they will do with the mass of illegal immigrants who don’t fit into those categories and don’t leave because the employment verification system prevents them from getting work.

This is a joint failure by both presidential candidates, but one born of experience. Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), after presenting his 2007 comprehensive reform plan, came around to the position that until we have confidence in border security we can’t as a political matter address the status of those illegals still here. I would like to think that an explicit two-step plan could be laid out and that we could at least reach agreement on how to move ahead with remaining illegals who don’t fit into one or more categories and aren’t driven from the country by the verification system. But perhaps once in office a President Romney can do what Obama never attempted and what President George W. Bush tried unsuccessfully: comprehensive immigration reform.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

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