Mitt Romney took a first step Thursday toward trying to soften his image among skeptical Hispanic voters — pledging to speak in a “civil and resolute manner” and that he would loosen some restrictions on the flow of legal foreign workers.
But he did not say appearing before a major Hispanic group what should happen to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, nor did he mention the Dream Act, the stalled legislation he previously vowed to veto that would legalize many young people brought to the country as children, writes The Washington Post.
“Some people have asked if I will let stand the president’s executive order,” Romney said at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference.
“The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure,” he said.
But the presumptive GOP presidential nominee showed that he is not prepared to back down from many of the positions that have put him at odds with some immigrants, advocacy groups and members of his party.
During the Republican presidential primary, Romney was one of the candidates who was hardest to the right on immigration, promising to veto the Dream Act and calling Arizona a model to the nation for its law requiring employers to check the legal status of all job applicants using the federal E-Verify program, according to The Huff Post.
Romney pointed out that President Obama had not fulfilled his promises for Hispanics.
“He may admit that he has not kept every promise, and he’ll probably say that even though you aren’t better off than you were four years ago, things could be worse,” Romney said. “He will imply that you don’t really have an alternative. I believe he’s taking your vote for granted. I come here today with a very simple message: You do have an alternative.”
The issue of immigration is one of the most important to Latino voters, even though it ranks below jobs and the economy in most polling.
“Our immigration system should help promote strong families, not keep them apart,” Romney said in support of visa reform for families. “Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof. But, today, too many families are caught in a broken system that costs them time and money and entangles them in red tape.”
During the speech Romney devoted some of his time to talking about the need for economic policies that help lower Latino unemployment.
“Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day when President Obama took office,” Romney said.
“Home values have plunged, our national debt is at record levels and families are buried under higher prices for food and gasoline. And yet the president says the private sector is doing fine. This is more than a policy failure; it is a moral failure.”
After Romney’s speech, Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) told reporters that he was “very pleased” with his address to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
“I didn’t hear much ambiguity,” said Bush, who has urged members of his party to strike a more moderate tone on immigration and Hispanics.
He said: “I heard a consistent message of border control, but I think he expanded it out to talk about reforming the immigration system itself, allowing people to serve in the military to be able to get legal residency; to work with Democrats — which is a new concept, where actually Republicans and Democrats can work together for long-term, comprehensive reform rather than stop-gap measures.”
“I liked it,” he added. “I was very pleased with it.”
On Tuesday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that the GOP in Congress was waiting for Romney to take the lead, likely at the conference here, on the party’s response to Obama.