When Romney was up against Mike Huckabee in the 2008 election cycle before being knocked out by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), he attacked Huckabee for his tuition stance. “Giving a tuition break to the children of illegals that are here illegally when citizens are having to pay a higher rate, that makes no sense to me at all and that's something Mike Huckabee supported when he was governor of Arkansas," Romney said. Politifact rated this a “half-truth” because Huckabee signed into law a measure which allowed undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition if they were residents and would qualify but for their immigration status. He went on to elaborate how he vetoed a similar measure in Massachusetts as Governor, bragging about denying undocumented students of his state their best chance at a college education. Coincidentally (yet unsurprisingly), that was the same campaign season that he was employing notorious Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio as the chair of his Arizona campaign. The Department of Justice is currently suing Arpaio after allegations that his department racially profiled Latinos in his trademark immigration patrols.
Looking at Romney’s recent performances during the GOP primary debates, he consistently jumped to the right on immigration to please the Tea Party base to look like the “severe conservative” to counter Gingrich’s cries of him being a “Massachusetts Moderate.” Once again, Romney attacked Texas Governor Rick Perry for signing in-state tuition for undocumented students and called Arizona’s SB 1070 a “model for the nation.” These positions have not been welcomed warmly as SB1070, his “model for the nation”, was struck down by the Supreme Court and his self-deportation strategy already costing states like Alabama billions of dollars and tons of crops in lost workers, products and taxes as Americans refuse the farming jobs undocumented immigrants often fill.
When you look at the facts, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than Mitt Romney has consistently sacrificed Latinos to please his right-wing base and would highly likely do the same by repealing the deferred action protection for DREAMers. Indeed, immigration reform would not be on top of his agenda as a President Romney would aim his cannons at repealing or defunding the health care law, pushing for the Keystone Pipeline, and tax legislation. With a gridlock Congress these issues would take up significant time to address any other issues, rendering immigration non-essential.
Although Mitt Romney is known as a fairly moderate Republican all in all, he hardly tries to demonstrate that he represents the interests of the Latino community when it comes to immigration. Romney and prominent Republicans like Florida Senator Marco Rubio rightly point the economy as primarily important to the Latino electorate but fail to understand that immigration for Latinos is intimately personal as many of us know someone who is undocumented. This same reason is the cause of campaigns across the country, like “Su Voz, Mi Voto”, popping up aiming to increase turnout by encouraging Latino voters to vote for their friends and family members who lack the power to cast a ballot.
Immigrants have always been an easy target in American politics, but history has shown that they are much easier to scapegoat when the economy sours. When this happens, there is unfounded anxiety that it is because undocumented workers are flooding the market with cheap labor, undercutting American workers. With unemployment as high as it is, it’s no wonder that Mitt Romney found it convenient to scapegoat undocumented immigrants to get him through the primaries. When he finally breaks down and pivots as hard as he can toward the Latino base which he cannot win the election without, he will have a difficult time overcoming the YouTube clips which he has amassed.
Vargas and Campbell are with DRM Capitol Group and national activist for the DREAM Act.