Romney remains vague on immigration

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In fact, Mitt Romney has no plan to fix our broken immigration system. During the primaries Romney played to the right by embracing the anti-immigrant Restrictionist fringe. He welcomed the endorsement of nativist lawyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose primary claim to fame is the authorship of the draconian Arizona immigration law, the guts of which were thrown out by the Supreme Court earlier this year. Kobach’s influence on Romney was obvious during the primaries when Romney proudly endorsed "self-deportation," a mean spirited policy proposal (and a Kobach idea) that would effectively target immigrant families, particularly Latino families, by making their lives so unbearable that they flee the U.S. Yet when it comes to building a safe, orderly and fair immigration system designed to secure America's borders, keep American families safe and together, and meet the needs of American business, Romney's message was—and remains—woefully devoid of substance.

The record is replete with Romney’s claim that he “loves” legal immigration. But what does that mean? When Marin states in her blog that the immigration system is broken, she is referring to the set of laws in place by which foreign nationals immigrate to the U.S. Romney’s claim is therefore meaningless in the absence of advocating for a comprehensive overhaul of the current immigration system — one that includes a pathway to lawful compliance for the 12 million undocumented immigrants now living in the shadows. Romney — taking a page from the Restrictionist playbook — has been consistent in opposing any policy solution that gives the undocumented a way to comply with the law. Like his anti-immigrant friends, Romney labels any such fix an unacceptable amnesty.

The reality is that Marin can cite no specific immigration policy solutions that Romney supports. Yes, he talks a good game about “stapling Green Cards” to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic diplomas. But the truth is that opening the U.S. up to the best and the brightest was proposed by President Obama in his January 2011 State of the Union address. It’s certainly nice to see Romney taking a reasonable position on an issue which Mr. Obama and others championed before the former Massachusetts governor even weighed in on the issue.

Nor does Marin’s blog comport with reality when it comes to her criticism of the President’s decision to temporarily defer the deportation of promising undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. while children. It’s easy to label something that helps a young person a political stunt if you have not seen the reaction of an 18 year old high school graduate when she learns that because of the process put into place by President Obama she can now attend college and build a future. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney won’t even tell the voters whether or not he’d continue the deferral program if he is elected. In fact, he is so disengaged he recently referred to the Deferred Action process as a “visa”, demonstrating how uninformed he is about the immigration process in general. Instead, he tries to have it both ways—he has steadfastly opposed the DREAM Act which would offer these same youth a pathway to lawful compliance and, at the same time, says he opposes the President’s deferred action process because it’s not permanent.

Marin conspicuously fails to point out that President Obama worked hard to pass the DREAM Act in 2010 but was unsuccessful because the Republicans in the U.S. Senate, kowtowing to the anti-immigrant extremists, defeated it.

Nowhere in her blog does Marin mention the fact that President Obama has enforced the immigration law to a greater degree than any other president before him. Indeed, he has incurred the wrath of many immigration advocates for the record number of deportations under his watch. Moreover, the border is now far more secure; illegal crossings are at their lowest rate since the 1970s.

When it comes to fashioning a comprehensive solution to America’s broken immigration system over the next four years neither President Obama nor a President Romney can go it alone. Real reform will require that Congress roll up their sleeves, show political courage, and work with the White House to create an immigration policy that maintains the integrity of the borders, preserves American families, and ensures American businesses have the tools they need to compete in the global economy.

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney offers few policy specifics which will achieve that goal.

Leopold is the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He now serves as general counsel to the organization.