06/26/2012 10:42 am ET Updated Aug 26, 2012

Should Latino Voters Trust Mitt Romney on Immigration? No

Mitt Romney tried to soften his image on immigration last week, speaking in Florida before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). According to the Boston Globe:

The former Massachusetts governor, calling immigration reform "a moral imperative," said he would help immigrants reunite with their families. He would raise caps on the number of immigrants who could secure temporary work visas. Immigrants who earn advanced degrees at an American university would also earn a green card. He also said he would complete a 2,000-mile fence along the border, and reiterated his support to providing legal status to immigrants who serve in the military.

This is reform?

Removing the cap on visas for spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents has already been rejected by Republicans in Congress, so this is a meaningless promise.

How many immigrants have received "advanced degrees," as opposed to undergraduate ones? And how many of them are Latino?  It's not a large number. (President Obama's order allows those who have completed high school to stay.)

What does he mean when he says he would "support" legal status for those who serve in the military?  Current law allows undocumented immigrants who have served honorably during wartime to secure citizenship, but the law also prohibits them from enlisting in the first place. Does Romney's "support" mean he would do anything to change this inconsistency? He hasn't said he would.

In contrast, Romney made it clear that he would rescind President Obama's recent order.

"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."

All told, instead of the 800,000 immigrants covered by President Obama's order, Mitt Romney's plan might cover a few thousand immigrants, only a small portion of whom might be Latino. And that would be it for Romney, whereas President Obama isn't going to stop pushing for the DREAM Act or other measures.

Mitt Romney speech yesterday didn't erase his prior positions on immigration, which were characterized as the most extreme among the candidates for the Republican nomination.

Romney hasn't distanced himself from two of his closest friends on immigration policy, who support very harsh measures.
  • Russell Pierce, one of the authors of SB 1070, and the first Arizona legislator to be ousted in a recall election, has said that Mitt Romney's immigration position is "identical to mine" and "much of his policy was modeled ... after my legislation."
  • Kris Kobach, the right-wing Kansas Secretary of State who helped draft anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and Alabama, is an unpaid adviser to the Romney campaign on immigration issues.  Romney has said: "I'm so proud to earn Kris [Kobach]'s support."
Romney also didn't reverse these positions yesterday:
  • Romney supports "self-deportation" which his etch-a-sketch adviser Eric Fehrnstrom described as making immigrants' lives unbearable so they will want to leave the country: "You turn off the magnets, no in-state tuition, no benefits of any kind, no employment. You put in place an employment verification system with penalties for employers that hire illegals, that will shut off access to the job market, and they will self retreat. They will go to their native countries."
  • Romney also firmly opposes the Dream Act, saying in this video (at the 1:40 mark) that he would veto it if Congress passed it.  This same video shows Romney's Mexican cousins perplexed by his harsh stance against immigration.  (Romney's father was born in Mexico to parents who were U.S. citizens.)
  • He supports giving all legal immigrants a special card with bio-information on it that employers would be required to check. If employers hired anyone without the card, they would face severe sanctions.
  • He has also said the first priority is to "get the fence built," which he reinforced again yesterday.
  • He supports state-led efforts to crack down on immigrants and touts the things he did as Governor of Massachusetts, including backing state police efforts to crack down on immigrants and barring drivers' licenses for illegals.
After more than a week of hemming and hawing about immigration in the wake of President Obama's announcement, Mitt Romney apparently felt compelled to say something.  But what he said should not change anyone's mind about where Mitt stands.  Mitt Romney has a very harsh immigration policy.