Romney immigration stance is magnified in Florida

Mitt Romney

MIAMI: Mitt Romney’s promise to veto a measure that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants threatens to turn off Hispanic voters, whose support could be critical in a general election match-up against President Barack Obama.

The issue is gaining prominence as the Republican front-runner heads toward the Jan. 31 primary in Florida, even though most of the state’s Hispanics are Puerto Rican or Cuban-American and, thus, aren’t affected by U.S. immigration law, nor view it as a priority. Still, it’s a state where 13 percent of registered voters are Hispanic, where the nation’s largest Spanish-language TV networks are based, and where the nation’s third-largest number of illegal immigrants live intensifying the focus on Romney’s position.

“Latino voters, like all voters in this country, are interested in America being an opportunity nation,” Romney said during a debate in South Carolina, when asked if his promise to veto the so-called Dream Act was alienating voters. “In my view, as long as we communicate to the people of all backgrounds in this country that it can be better, and that America is a land of opportunity, we will get those votes.”

His veto promise – first made in the days before the Iowa caucuses – has hit a nerve with prominent Hispanics, and some Republicans worry that the position will turn off the growing number of Latino voters in swing-voting states, particularly in the west, who are now on the fence after backing Obama in 2008. These Republicans suggest that Romney was trying to curry favor with hardline Republican primary voters at the expense of Hispanics whose support he would need come the fall.

“If Romney’s the nominee, he’s going to have to come to the center and make some decisions about how to resolve that issue,” said Republican Herman Echevarria, a Cuban-American who is the CEO of a Miami-based bilingual advertising agency and a longtime local political player. “He’s trying to be a conservative candidate. And if you don’t become a conservative candidate, you cannot be the candidate of the Republicans. But you cannot be elected president just as a conservative candidate.”

Already, there are signs of backlash.

For Colombia native Ana Rodriguez, a Miami-based graphic designer who received political asylum and will become a U.S. citizen this year, Romney’s comments are precisely what motivated her to vote against him. “Because of what I went through,” Rodriguez said, “I want more people (elected) who are interested in supporting immigrants and want a more equal and fair system of immigration.”

Florida Dream Act activists, who have been among the most visible in the nation, also are promising to keep the heat on Romney as his campaign comes to the state.
Recently, at El Tropical restaurant in Miami, Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who has endorsed Romney, told a group of mostly Cuban-American Republican primary voters that the former Massachusetts governor was the only candidate who could fix the economy and protect U.S. security interests. Then, a young Colombian immigrant stepped forward and asked Diaz-Balart, who has championed immigrants’ rights including the Dream Act, how the congressman could support Romney.

“You have been such a friend to us, I just don’t understand,” said Juan Rodriguez, a student at Florida International University who was among a half-dozen students who walked from Miami to Washington in the winter to raise awareness of the legislation.

The exchange was caught on tape by several Spanish-language media outlets that reach viewers around the world.

Romney has arguably the toughest immigration position of any of the Republican candidates. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, would give legal status to illegal immigrants who have deep roots in the U.S. and lived otherwise lawfully.

Conversely, Romney has been adamantly opposed to any type of amnesty for illegal immigrants since his first White House run in 2008. Previously, he called reasonable a bipartisan proposal to allow immigrants to seek green cards granting permanent residency status in exchange for certain penalties, though he says he never officially supported such legislation.

Last year, Romney objected to the Dream Act. But he went further in the days before the Iowa caucuses when asked if he would veto the measure that would allow illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to earn legal status if they went to college or joined the military.

“The answer is yes,” Romney told voters then.

While he said he does not oppose creating a path for those who serve in the U.S. military to become permanent residents, he also said he doesn’t believe such individuals should be able to adjust their status by attending school, nor should they receive lower in-state tuition rates.

Since narrowly winning the Iowa caucuses, Romney has been sending Hispanics mixed messages.

He’s working to woo Hispanics and convince them he’s sincere in fighting for their causes, recently launching TV commercials in Florida featuring Cuban-Americans Diaz-Balart and fellow U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as well as his son Craig speaking in Spanish.

But, in South Carolina, he’s also been campaigning with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the leading architect behind two of the strongest immigration crackdown laws enacted by state governments and being challenged by the federal government. Even many Latinos who support tougher immigration laws worry such measures will lead to racial profiling because they give broad leeway to law enforcement to stop anyone whom they suspect of being in the country illegally.

Jennifer Korn of the center-right group the Hispanic Leadership Network, which is co-hosting a Republican primary debate and Latino conference this month in Florida, said Romney took a risk in alienating Hispanic voters. But, she added, he’s also made clear he wants to fix the broader immigration system.

“If he explains it correctly, he definitely has a chance to have the Hispanic community listen to what he has to say,” she said.


  • Dave Francis



    The Liberals, Unions, farmers, radical groups,
    interest and even the major churches still think America should absorb
    foreign visitor or every illegal migrant, even though these entities
    would pay
    nothing towards their monetary support? Under their foolish direction
    this land
    could be overrun with even more abject poverty than what we have now.
    again, ObamaCare will treat anybody with the compliments of US
    taxpayers. We
    will all be forced by law to pay our fair-share of taxes into his
    healthcare pool in future years. Not only have to accept paying for our
    own low
    income, homeless people, but the absconders from other lands? We will
    the United Nations of PPO’s, HMO’s that will bankrupt this nation? We
    already sliding into a giant mire, but we can at least take release some
    of the
    intense pressure by the example of Mitt Romney statement; that we can
    exercise a citizen’s right in demanding the ‘Legal Workforce Act’ or
    E-Verify (H.R. 2885). Those workers passed because of discrepancies, can
    resolve it at the local Social Security office. No illegal alien would
    venture into this federal agency?

    This is true unadulterated immigration enforcement, by driving illegal aliens
    into self-deportation. The US Government has nothing to do, but audit business
    or listen to informants or whistle-blowers that have a front row seat, well
    aware of companies not complying with E-Verify? Once a few business owners see
    the inside of a prison cell or get fined millions of dollars the word will
    emanate around the country. These tough sanctions for violating the law will be
    determined to be an absolute deterrent if they hire illegal labor. The second
    urgent bill is the “Citizenship Birthright Amendment bill (H.R.140), which will
    derail the persistence of any illegal alien, of any national gaining immediate
    citizen for their baby and thereby unable to collect welfare benefits, that only
    citizens should have the approval.

    Outside of the radical manipulation of the Liberal press, read THE TRUE FACTUAL
    daily news columns at “American Patrol” Site.

    Only the American people have the unique power of the vote, to descend on any
    given political representative and insist they co-sponsor these laws? If you
    think for one minute that either party without your pressing by voters that
    politicians are going to support either of these laws without you harassing
    them; nothing will happen, ever? One thing’s for sure that paying out over $113
    billion dollars a year in pandering to 22 million plus illegal aliens is not
    going away and the cold facts is the dollar amount is not going to fade? The
    public assistance programs are going to accelerate under this administrations
    Socialist dependency? It’s just going to grow as well as the overpopulation of
    this nation. Are we to face shortages of everything in our future? Learn the
    absolute truths at NumbersUSA. The E-Verify program must be succeeding as 4
    Democrats have now co-sponsored this bill and you too should contact your
    federal or local lawmaker’s at 202-224-3121 and demand it.


    The TEA
    PARTY does not segregate any race or nationality as the Liberal media would
    like you to believe, it doesn’t alienate any person who is here—LEGALLY. The WE
    THE PEOPLE TEA PARTY of tens of millions of members just requests that the 1986
    Immigration law (IRCA) enforced and not altered to pander to illegal migrants
    and immigrants. Learn some fact-finding by researching at NumbersUSA, American
    Patrol, and Judicial Watch and Heritage Foundation sites. Outside
    of the radical manipulation of the Liberal press, read THE TRUE FACTUAL daily
    news columns at “American Patrol” Site. The E-Verify program must be
    succeeding as 4 Democrats have now co-sponsored this bill and you too should
    contact your federal or local lawmaker’s at 202-224-3121 and demand that this
    bill be passed.