Romney began much like he often does; “First of all, this is a nation of immigrants.” He then began to make the usual distinctions on legal and illegal immigration, seemingly towing the same Republican immigration rhetoric which has been heavily alienating Latinos this year. He spoke of giving visas to skilled laborers abroad, but didn’t say he would ever offer them citizenship for the fact that they help build and maintain our nation.
With regards to undocumented youth or DREAMers, he said he believes a path to citizenship but only through the military channel. There are many DREAMers who would in fact like to serve this country in the military like Alina Cortes who came to the country when she was 9 years old and has dreamed of serving in the Marines. But there are also thousands more of undocumented and educated young people willing to serve this country as engineers and teachers.
When Romney elaborated “I will not grant amnesty to those who have come here illegally,” this was another confirmation that he would veto the DREAM Act if given the opportunity. When Romney was pushed by Crawley on “self-deportation,” he completely buckled:

CROWLEY: Let me get the governor in here, Mr. President. Let's speak to, if you could...
CROWLEY: ...the idea of self-deportation?
ROMNEY: No, let -- let -- let me go back and speak to the points that the president made and -- and -- and let's get them correct.
While President Obama has his shortcomings on immigration, including record deportations, he has made efforts to bring reason to the debate. Indeed, the President highlighted that Romney was more extreme than President George W. Bush. In 2007, Bush supported comprehensive immigration reform, including the DREAM Act.

It is difficult to see whether Mitt Romney could shift more center on immigration this far in the election. But what is clear is his abidance to policies that immigration hawks like Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) or Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach have advance; policies that have contributed to the Republican nominee's deficiency with Hispanics. The Latino electorate were watching tonight hoping to see Mitt Romney restore sensibility to the immigration debate. Indeed, Mitt Romney had the opportunity tonight to move away from the extreme and nasty rhetoric on immigration. He failed to do so.

Vargas is the political director with the DREAM Action Coalition and national activist for the DREAM Act.