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Romney Calls Immigration Reform "Moral Imperative"

Matt Pressberg |
June 21, 2012 | 2:44 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Mitt Romney advocates for the American Dream. (Vectorportal/Flickr)
Mitt Romney advocates for the American Dream. (Vectorportal/Flickr)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke of the need to find "common ground" on immigration reform in front of a group of Latino elected officials in Florida this afternoon.

His speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in suburban Orlando, in which the former Massachusetts governor called a resolution to this issue "a moral imperative," represents a notable change of tone from the more hard-line positions he took during the primary campaign and a clear attempt at outreach to Latino voters in response to President Obama's announcement last week of an executive order protecting certain younger immigrants from deportation.

As the Boston Globe reports, Romney proposed an agenda for immigration reform that would provide a path to legal status for immigrants earning advanced degrees at American colleges and those serving in the military. He framed the need to improve immigration policy not just in moral terms, but also as being the right thing to do for the economy.

"In his speech, Romney said it was crucial to keep educated immigrants in the United States. He cited statistics that show that immigrants are more likely to start a business.

'If you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here – so we will staple a green card to your diploma,' Romney said. 'We want the best and brightest to enrich the nation through the jobs and technologies they will help create.'"

Romney, who refused to disclose whether he would repeal the recent executive order if he were elected president on a recent interview on "Face the Nation," still did not give a clear yes-or-no answer in today's speech, but as Politico reports, he described President Obama's move as not a permanent solution:

"Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure. As president, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure.  I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution.  I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner."

The changing demographics in swing states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada require Romney to make an appeal to Latino voters, but he has a lot of ground to make up in gaining their support. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken last month showed a 34-point lead for the president among Latinos nationally, and according to the  New York Times, Romney hardly had rousing support among his Florida audience:

"The nearly twenty-minute speech was met with tepid applause and moments of pointed silence. He seemed to hit his stride near the middle of his remarks, when he talked about balancing the budget, giving parents a choice of where to send their children to school, and providing a path to legal status for immigrants who have served in the military. At the end, about half the room stood up to applaud."

The crowd may have been less than enthusiastic, but the New York Times reports that Romney's speech did impress one of the leading Republican moderate voices on immigration reform, Jeb Bush:

"Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, said that the fact that Mr. Romney addressed the conference was a meaningful gesture.

'It was a great speech, I was real impressed with it and I’m glad he came,' Mr. Bush said. 'I think he was received respectfully and warmly.'"

According to CNN, the Obama campaign responded with a release referencing Romney's refusal to give a straight answer on the president's executive order and his primary season promises to veto the DREAM Act, a bill that would open up a path to permanent residency for selected younger illegal immigrants that was blocked in the Senate by a filibuster despite receiving more than the 50-vote majority.

"'After seven days of refusing to say whether or not he'd repeal the Obama administration's immigration action that prevents young people who were brought here through no fault of their own as children from being deported, we should take [Romney] at his word that he will veto the DREAM Act as president,' said Obama for America Director of Hispanic press Gabriela Domenzain."

President Obama is set to address the same group tomorrow.


Reach Executive Producer Matt Pressberg here.



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