Mitt Romney just addressed the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Orlando, and in tandem with the speech, his campaign released what they’re calling a “strategy for bipartisan immigration reform.” The campaign sought to erase lingering doubts about his response to the Obama Administration’s deferred action order for DREAM-eligible undocumented immigrants. And I’m not sure they’ve done that.
Here’s the basic framework of the plan:
• Encourage high-skill immigrants: Romney wants to raise the country caps for legal immigrants, particularly “high-skill” immigrants, which is undefined. He does say that “Every foreign student who obtains an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering at a U.S. university should be granted permanent residency.” (It’s also the case, by the way, that so-called “low-skill immigrants” would boost the economy significantly were they allowed in the country as well.)
• Fix the temporary worker visa system: This is all about ensuring a smoother process for employers to hire temporary agricultural or non-agricultural guest workers. It says nothing about the clear exploitation of those guest workers, as we’ve seen in the recent Wal-Mart supplier case. Because supplying cheap and exploitable labor is of course the point.
• Secure the borders. Yadda yadda yadda. The borders are secure to the extent that we’re seeing a net outflow of undocumented immigrants. But Romney vows to build a “high-tech fence” across the southern border, boost Border Patrol agents and develop E-Verify. For the 40%-plus of undocumented immigrants who enter the country legally and overstay their visas, Romney plans to “develop an efficient, effective system of exit verification to ensure people do not overstay their visas,” which sounds completely impossible to me.
• Families of legal residents. Romney proposes “eliminating red tape” that results in the separation of families. He wants legal permanent residents to be able to bring their non-resident spouses and children into the US, with a green card.
• Military DREAM. “Mitt Romney believes that young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children should have the chance to become permanent residents, and eventually citizens, by serving honorably in the United States military.” So no DREAM Act for students, you have to become cannon fodder.
In the speech, Romney did not address whether or not he would reverse the Obama Administration’s deferred action order for DREAMers. He’s been extremely cagey on that point. As many as 1.4 million young people could be affected by the deferred action order. Romney only said he would “replace and supersede” the Administration’s measure.
But the plan is written above. Except for those DREAMers who join the military, there’s no real clarity there for them. If they don’t have a parent who is a legal resident, they’re out of luck. They would be subject to the possibility of deportation every day. Moreover, there’s no suggestion about what to do with the millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the country.
And it goes without saying that in the recent past, Romney said he would veto the DREAM Act, and that immigrants would “self-deport” because of the hardships his Administration would put on them.
I haven’t seen much reaction to this speech yet. I’d be particularly interested in some of the reaction from Republicans, particularly those prone to yelling “amnesty” at the slightest hint of any softness on immigration. Not that this plan should be seen as anything resembling softness.