Mitt Romney cozied up to the Latino community Thursday, a demographic he performs poorly in, with a speech at the annual conference of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
Romney’s position on immigration has been in the spotlight in the week since President Obama created an executive order that stays the deportation of some young immigrants who arrived here illegally.
Recent polls suggest that Hispanics not only overwhelmingly support the president’s candidacy over Romney’s but also Obama’s new immigration policy.
Knowing his audience, Romney started off in an almost conciliatory tone, but quickly began hammering the president on the economy, health care reform, and immigration.
“Almost four years ago…we gave someone new a chance to lead. Someone who we hadn’t known very long, who didn’t have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place. When Barack Obama came to office, America wished him well and hoped for the best,” Romney said. “Three and half years later over 23 million Americans are out of work, unemployed, underemployed, or simply quit looking for a job. At a time when we should be gaining momentum in the economy, we’re actually seeing us lose a bit of it. Job growth has slowed. As you know, Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard.”
Romney told the audience he believed the president’s executive order was simply a political ploy and that he was “taking your vote for granted.” He presented himself as the alternative, the candidate who will improve their economic well-being but also address long-term, immigration reform.
The Republican candidate continued to oppose the president’s halt on deportations in a roundabout way, but did offer a few of his own proposals, including:
- Streamlining temporary worker visas for those in agriculture or other seasonal jobs
- Enhanced border security, including a high-tech fence
- Green cards for those who earn advanced degrees in the U.S.
- Speeding family applications
- A path to citizenship for those who serve in the military
“I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure,” Romney said as a way to answer whether or not he would repeal Obama's order. The remark was similar to ones he made on Sunday during Face the Nation.
Media outlets noticed Romney's "softer tone on immigration," as The New York Times put it, since the Republican primary season.
"This is Mitt Romney trying to sell Hispanics on the vision thing – that he believes he can lead and get a bigger plan in place..that is more long-lasting and far-reaching," added The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza during an appearance on Andrea Mitchell Reports. "The question is, 'Do they believe him?'"