10/19/2012 11:45 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

What Romney Didn't Say During the Last Debate: "Self-deportation"

There are many comments Mitt Romney has made throughout his long quest for the presidency that will not be forgotten: his derision of "47 percent" of the voters who oppose his politics and his "binders full of women," to name two.

There is a third comment Romney will never be able to shake, especially in the eyes of Latino voters who are paying close attention to what the candidates say to them and about them: "self-deportation." The term symbolizes the low regard that the candidate and his Republican Party have for immigrants and a key reason that Latino voters are rightly wary about Romney and are overwhelmingly supporting President Obama's re-election.

No matter how hard Romney tries to fool voters into thinking he has shed the "severely conservative" label he gave himself several months ago when he was struggling to win the GOP presidential nomination, Romney has never abandoned his call for the shameful "self-deportation" immigration policy.

"Self-deportation" is at the core of Romney's current immigration policy which was crafted by his key advisory, Kris Kobach, the architect of xenophobic anti-immigrant laws across several states including Arizona and Alabama.

The "self-deportation" plan is designed to enact laws that make life so miserable for immigrants -- depriving them of the ability to rent or own a house, work or even get a ride to work, to have their children questioned at school about the legal status of the parents, for example -- that they leave the country. Latino citizens also suffer the consequences of these laws which make them prime targets for police, because enforcement relies on racial profiling and the color of a person's skin.

During the last presidential debate, Romney avoided using the "self-deportation" term for his immigration policy that he fully embraced during the GOP primary campaign. Instead, he cleverly said his plan would "let people make their own choice" about whether to leave, which, of course, would happen after his policies make the lives of immigrants so unbearable that they "self-deport."

On another point, Romney said he would offer a pathway to legal residency -- not citizenship -- for children who were brought to this country without proper documents through no fault of their own, but only if they serve in the military.

What Romney did not say is that he has pledged to veto the DREAM Act, which would let youths earn citizenship if they serve in the military or attend college. He also did not mention that he will snatch away the dreams of deserving young people by ending President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects these youths from deportation. Under Romney's policy, Latinos are only good enough to send to the front lines of combat, but not worthy of earning citizenship through military service or scholastic achievement.

And while he stands by racial profiling laws like Arizona's SB 1070, he did not say during the last debate what he would do about the 11 million who are now in the country without documents.

Anyone wanting to know what Romney really thinks about Latino families, workers and immigrants, should look at what he said just a few months ago when he was calling himself "severely conservative." It is important to remember that Romney is now desperately trying to dig himself out of the deep hole he is in with Latino voters by not repeating ugly phrases that define his policies.

It will not work. Latino voters cannot forget a phrase like "self-deportation."