Polls consistently favored Florida Senator Marco Rubio as a potential running mate. But even then the attitude towards Senator Rubio amongst Latinos did not move the electoral needle far enough. Senator Rubio opposes the DREAM Act and supported SB1070 in Arizona. Aside from these woes, Romney has Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) challenging Obama’s shift in deportation policy giving the right to work and live in the U.S. to undocumented youth who have been here before the age of 16, are 31 or younger and served in the military or going to college.
While all parties agree that this was a temporary measure, nobody can deny the power it has to rally the Latino vote. The DREAM Act has a 90% approval rating amongst Latinos according to a Univision poll. Leaving little room to doubt his resolve, King grilled Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, from the House Judiciary Committee. “Representative, I will not rescind it” she said, explaining how it was within prosecutorial authorities. He claimed Constitutional violations and promised litigation down the road.
Romney is staying silent but considering his promised veto of the DREAM Act, his new running mate, veto of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants in his own state and a slew of anti-immigrant statements, it’s safe to say a President Romney would roll it back as soon as it was politically convenient to do so. It’s one thing to argue about how the timing is not right and quite another to change the policy and get rid of them yourself. According to a recent Arizona State University poll, 3/4 of voters in Arizona support the DREAM Act. This is a litmus test for the nation, because Arizona is a conservative-leaning swing state that is now on the side of the DREAM Act.
Romney’s appeal to Latino voters has been remarkably weak. Having backed himself into a corner rhetorically on immigration with no more room to give on issues like the DREAM Act, he is having a difficult time finding the link he needs to appeal to Latinos. He’s now sending his telegenic sons to speak on Spanish television to show the candidate's commitment “to finding a long-term, bipartisan solution to the nation's immigration challenges.” Unfortunately, this campaign ad do a poor job laying the substance. What is clear, however, is Mitt Romney’s uneasiness with immigration.
Meanwhile Joe Arpaio is back in court after being enjoined by District Court Judge Snow from detaining any person on reasonable belief that the detainee doesn’t have their immigration papers in order. A group of Latinos are pursuing a civil suit against the sheriff for discrimination. This time, he’s explaining how his “dirty immigrant” comment was in no way discriminatory. Romney has to deal with being associated with Arpaio, who endorse Romney in his primary in 2008, is featured on whyromney.com and has been popular within anti-immigration groups.
As the election draws nearer, there will be more anti-immigrant ads in local elections that will make the Republican party look bad nationally. The 2012 election cycle looks like it’s every man for himself, and Romney needs all the support he can get though he won’t be getting much help from his party nor from Paul Ryan.
Vargas, J.D. and Campbell, J.D. are with DRM Capitol Group and are national activists for the DREAM Act.