IF ONLY HE were Hispanic, Mitt Romney mused in his secretly recorded comments unearthed by Mother Jones magazine, his electoral prospects would be so much brighter. “I say that jokingly,” said the Republican presidential nominee, who plainly wasn’t joking at all, “but it would be helpful to be Latino.”
Looking at his poll numbers, the reasons for Mr. Romney’s wistfulness — and for his angst about Hispanic votes — are apparent. Among that fast-growing segment of the electorate, President Obama enjoys better than a 2-to-1 lead over Mr. Romney, roughly the same margin that helped him win key swing states in 2008.
So in search of some street cred that might lift his chances in Colorado, Nevada or Virginia, Mr. Romney has cited what passes for his Hispanic roots — the fact that his father, George, was born (to American parents) in Mexico — and has deployed his son Craig, who speaks Spanish, in ads on Spanish-language media.
Very nice. But if Mr. Romney really wants to make inroads into Mr. Obama’s lead among Hispanics, what he needs is an immigration policy that is fair, cogent and economically rational. That would be a refreshing change from his stance of the past six months, during which he first embraced harsh rhetoric and draconian policies, then tried to fuzz it away at the margins.
In Mr. Romney’s latest foray into immigration policy, during a forum broadcast online by the Spanish-language Univision network, he promised to “put into place an immigration reform system that resolves this issue.” And how exactly would he do that? The candidate wouldn’t say.
Mr. Romney did say what he wouldn’t do — he wouldn’t round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. But he remains stuck with the more punitive policies that he favored during the GOP primaries, when he said he would push illegal immigrants to “self-deport” by making it impossible for them to work; vowed to veto the Dream Act, which would grant legal status to undocumented young people who were brought into the country by their parents; pledged to complete the 2,000-mile border fence along the Mexican border; cozied up to Arizona’s draconian “show-me-your-papers” law by promising to drop the federal litigation against it on his first day as president; and enlisted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leading crusader against illegal immigration and an architect of the Arizona law, as an adviser to his campaign.
Mr. Romney’s positions, which are really no more than slogans, avoid all the tough questions that would attend a serious debate on immigration reform. He says he would support temporary work visas, but does he really suppose those could be issued in sufficient numbers to replace the millions of undocumented workers who he hopes would “self-deport”? He says he would staple a green card to advanced degrees in math, science and engineering earned by foreign students, but would he do so at the cost of eliminating other immigration visas, as congressional Republicans insist? And what would he do about the undocumented youngsters — as many as 1.7 million of them — whom Mr. Obama has made eligible for temporary legal status? Mr. Romney isn’t saying.