Mitt Romney NALEO speech: ever weaker on immigration (chain green cards, comprehensive reform, guest workers)

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Mitt Romney spoke to NALEO - the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials - earlier today and went even weaker on immigration. Excerpts of his remarks, a discussion, and video are below.

But, first, let me point out something you'll hear from very few other sources: NALEO has a direct, albeit fairly minor, link to the Mexican government as described at their name's link above. Most of their members will at least be friendly with pan-Hispanic ethnic nationalism and most of their members will be trying to use it to gain politically. Republicans at least should challenge groups like the National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens, but frequently pander to them instead. Republicans should likewise challenge NALEO members - for instance, Antonio Villaraigosa - but instead end up pandering to far-left ethnic nationalist interests.

Which brings us to Mitt Romney. Excerpts of his remarks (as prepared for delivery) are here, and a corresponding policy document is here.

1. He complains about Hispanic unemployment, something that Obama and many members of NALEO make worse through their support for massive and illegal immigration. Romney is almost as bad as them: instead of pointing out what they're doing and how they're making things worse for their constituents, Romney panders to the group. Romney said "two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office", but Romney won't call NALEO members and Obama on helping bring that about through mass/illegal immigration.

2. Romney offered this now-trite GOP talking point:

For two years, this President had huge majorities in the House and Senate - he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. Instead, he failed to act until facing a tough re-election and trying to secure your vote.

That's a very bad talking point because it implies that what Obama and the Democrats want on immigration is a good thing. Instead of validating what they're doing, Romney should oppose it from a policy basis.

3. Continuing that, Romney said (bolding added):

After three and a half years of putting every issue from loan guarantees for his donors to Cash For Clunkers before immigration, now the President has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on Day One. I think you deserve better.

His use of "you" probably implies that those at NALEO represent all Hispanics, and that's not the case. If he meant "you" in the sense of "you who are trying to politically profit from ethnic nationalism such as Antonio Villaraigosa", then it would be very accurate. But, the former is more likely. Romney should be trying to drive a wedge between most Hispanics and far-left leaders like Villaraigosa, not promising them more race-based power. And - unless he's going to support ethnic nationalism across the board - he should oppose it for Hispanics.

4. Addressing Obama's DREAM Act-by-executive fiat, Romney said:

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... As President, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution.

That implies that what Romney would do would have the same impact as what Obama did, but permanently - not just temporarily as Obama - legalizing hundreds of thousands or millions of people. Obama's move has been dealt with here extensively: most of the workers harmed by it will be Democrats, it's hard to imagine the elites supporting it if they were the ones harmed, it's supported by charlatans like Dr. Richard Land, the questionable Bloomberg poll, and how it doesn't matter that much that those covered by it are already working.

And, since both Republican and Democratic leaders tend to be supporters of massive immigration, the "long-term solution" Romney has in mind is probably something like comprehensive immigration reform.

5. Romney said he will "prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier." The U.S. admits around a million legal immigrants per year, and poll after poll shows that most Americans think that's either about right or too high. Romney would go in the opposite direction.

6. Romney said:

"I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner... is critical that we redouble our efforts to secure the borders. That means both preventing illegal border crossings and making it harder to illegally overstay a visa. We should field enough border patrol agents, complete a high-tech fence, and implement an improved exit verification system."

Ah, the good ol' secure the border line, with Romney meaning it in the "secure the border first" sense discussed at the link. We should enforce our immigration laws in a "civil" fashion, but most at NALEO will read that as a weakness they can exploit as they do now. Romney should realize who he's speaking to and challenge them instead of giving them an opening they can use.

The fence part of that might be highlighted by illegal immigration supporters in the establishment media, but it isn't that significant: Romney probably means something like Rick Perry's "strategic fencing" or the failed Boeing "virtual" fence.

7. Romney said:

Our immigration system should help promote strong families, not keep them apart. Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof... [red tape is bad] ...As President, I will reallocate Green Cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof. We will exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents. And we will eliminate other forms of bureaucratic red tape that keep families from being together.

That's a form of chain migration, and the first part could be implied to supporting the "Pelosi rule"; see that link. Fiscal conservatives might want to evaluate the costs associated with such a policy, as well as all the fraud that will no doubt result.

8. Then:

Immigration reform is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity as well. Immigrants with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at a high rate. Immigrants founded or cofounded nearly half of our 50 top venture-backed companies. They are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business. And that kind of risk taking is something we need more than ever because new business starts are now at a 30-year low.

The first part is false compassion: the impact of Romney's "moral imperative" will make things worse for most of the U.S. and for foreign countries. The statistic about startup companies is from a study by the National Foundation for American Policy; I haven't yet reviewed the study but there's probably something they aren't revealing. But, bear in mind that Romney is talking about skilled immigration while most of those in the audience represent those who aren't highly skilled.

9. Then:

I will work with states and employers to update our temporary worker visa program so that it meets our economic needs.

We have several such programs, and it's not clear which Romney means. Perhaps he means all of them, and would support guest workers across the board, both lower-skilled labor to keep chicken processors and growers happy, and H1B increases to keep corporations happy. Whatever the case, that would result in yet more competition for struggling American workers. (UPDATE: also see the RArmant comment below; Romney's use of "states" might mean he'd help states like Utah set up their own guest worker schemes or similar.)

10. Back to the trite talking points:

And if you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here - so we will staple a green card to your diploma.

The "staple" talking point appears to have originated with Andy Grove, and it would have some medium-term benefits for the U.S. but the cost of braindraining the Third World might have long-term impacts for the U.S. that could be great.

UPDATE:Obama's 2011 "Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System" [1] contained this (bolding added in both the following quote and Romney's above):

Encouraging foreign students to stay in the U.S. and contribute to our economy by stapling a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), PhDs and select STEM Masters Degrees students so that they will stay, contribute to the American economy, and become Americans over time;

11. Then, Mitt Romney supported a variant of the DREAM Act, in addition to sounding like Rudy Giuliani:

We also have a strong tradition in this country of honoring immigrants who join our military and put their lives on the line to keep this country safe. Since September 11, 2001, the United States has naturalized almost 75,000 members of the Armed Forces. Too many of these patriots died on distant battlefields for our freedom before receiving full citizenship here in the country they called "home." ...As President, I will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service. Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America.

Taken to the extreme, that would become a U.S. Foreign Legion and at least would encourage people to join the military for the wrong reasons: just to get U.S. citizenship and not because they buy into American concepts.

12. Finally:

But improving access to legal immigration is only one part of the equation. We must also make legal immigration more attractive than illegal immigration, so that people are rewarded for waiting patiently in line. That's why my administration will establish a strong employment verification system so that every business can know with confidence that the people it hires are legally eligible for employment... We can find common ground here, and we must. We owe it to ourselves as Americans to ensure that our country remains a land of opportunity - both for those who were born here and for those who share our values, respect our laws, and want to come to our shores.

The only real sop to the majority of Americans who support our immigration laws came near the end, with Romney at least pretending he'd support something like eVerify.

That's more than counter-balanced by what Romney is suggesting: reducing illegal immigration by increasing legal immigration. Since there are billions of people who'd want to move here if they could - and there are around five billion people who are poorer than Mexicans - that's not going to work.

If you want to do something about this, see the list of Mitt Romney's advisors on Twitter. Repeatedly contact them - using separate accounts if necessary - and make the points in this and the other Mitt Romney posts. Cajole them, discredit them, whatever it takes.

And, work to discredit those others who are working to make Romney even worse than he already is on immigration.

UPDATE: Some of the dangers inherent in pandering and doing it in a vague way are evident from the DailyKos post about this ( ). It's by "Meteor Blades" (Timothy Lange), their "Senior Policy Editor". Responding to Romney's "replace and supersede" quote, he says:

what of undocumented children who have been raised in the United States by undocumented parents? Will they be kept together by being shipped back to their birthplace along with their parents? Is that what he means by keeping families together? Replacing and superseding the president's executive order would seem to say that young people will again be deported.

That's not what Romney meant; see #4 and the others above for what he meant. When you pander and those you're pandering to (or their helpers) can't pick up on the pander, that just compounds the problem. In Lange's case it's clearly because he's clueless (he thinks the anti-American DREAM Act should be "utterly uncontroversial"), but in other cases it's a deliberate attempt to mislead. Expect that to keep happening: no matter how Romney panders, no matter how weak he gets, those in the professional Democrat sphere won't be satisfied and will keep pushing for more.

The way out of that for Romney is to oppose them on their policies and work to show undecideds and low-information voters how their policies are wrong.

6/22/12 UPDATE: From this:

[Ray Walser, the co-chairman of Mr Romney's Latin American Working Group] told The Daily Telegraph: "My anticipation is that [Romney] would probably rescind [Obama's DREAM Act directive] were he to be elected in November."... Mr Walser, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation and veteran US diplomat, said such a decision would be in line with the "very tough" stance taken on illegal migration by Mr Romney so far...

However, "many conservatives" believe Mr Obama is "still lax" on the topic, and would want his non-deportation policy scrapped, said Mr Walser. Among "the conservative base" he said, "there is a reluctance to say 'Oh, this is OK, we're going to simply wipe the slate clean'."

A Romney campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. However The Daily Telegraph's email inquiry was forwarded to Mr Walser, who later contacted the newspaper to say that he had been asked to have his comments disassociated from Mr Romney.

"I've now had a little conversation with people from the campaign and they are concerned that I was not speaking in an authoritative voice," he said. "They would really prefer that if you're going to quote the Romney position, you get it from someone other than me."

Mr Walser earlier said that while Mr Obama's policy "was going to look good", he agreed with Mr Romney and Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American Republican senator for Florida who has focused on immigration policy, that it was "a band-aid to the ongoing need for profound immigration reform".

Walser also praised Obama's border and immigration enforcement efforts.

How to read that is anyone's guess. I could be completely wrong, and Romney could just be pretending to be getting weaker and weaker on immigration. Or, it could just represent a campaign that can't get their message in order. But, even if Romney "rescind[ed]" Obama's directive, that doesn't mean he wouldn't support something just as bad.

6/22/12 UPDATE 2: Campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul tells Greg Sargent:

"Ray Walser does not advise nor speak for the campaign on immigration policy. Gov. Romney has been clear he will put in place a long-term solution that will supersede President Obama’s stop-gap measure."

6/22/12 UPDATE 3: Now, from this:

Speaking to MailOnline after Obama’s speech to NALEO, however, Jose Fuentes, a co-chair of Romney Hispanic Steering Committee and a former Attorney General of Puerto Rico, said that he believed Romney would not repeal Obama’s order.

Asked whether his assumption would be that Romney would keep the order that Obama put in place last Friday, he replied: ‘Yes, he would make it a part of a comprehensive reform and make it permanent.'

Pressed to clarify whether he thought the order would remain pending that comprehensive reform being achieved, he responded: ‘If you're saying that you're going to make it permanent and that you're going to fight to make it permanent, I think that's a pretty good assumption.’

...Asked whether Fuentes was correctly stating the campaign’s position, Romney’s spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded: ‘Governor Romney has been clear he will put in place a long-term solution that will supersede President Obama's stop-gap measure.’

If Romney didn't intend to basically do what Fuentes describes, Saul probably would have given him the same Siberia-bound treatment as she did Walser. I'm pretty sure my negative assessment of Romney's current position will prove to be accurate, and that his position will get even worse.

6/24/12 UPDATE: The video that was here (ID ctjmUYAItig) was deleted by the user, I added a different copy that's audio only.

[1] See the PDF (cached) available here: whitehouse . gov/blog/2011/05/10/