Call it political pandering in an election year, but last week’s announcement by Pres. Obama on immigration was another dizzying punch to Romney and his attempts to gain ground with Latinos.
It’s a winning strategy in any election to define your opponent, rather than allow them to define themselves.
On June 15, Obama announced that people younger than 30 who came to the United States before the age of 16, who pose no criminal or security threat, and were either successful students or served in the military, could apply for a two-year deferral from deportation. In other words, close to a million young people, better known as “DREAMers” now have a chance at staying in this country without fear of exile to countries they have never known.
Romney’s reaction shows his continued fear of the key heart issue for Latinos: immigration.
“I think the action that the president took today makes it more difficult to reach that long-term solution, because an executive order is, of course, just a short term matter,” Romney told reporters in same-day response to the news. Note how he deflected the question. Romney does not say if he agrees in keeping DREAMers in the country.
The President’s actions could easily be overturned by whoever wins in November. But when asked if he would rescind Obama’s actions if elected, Romney did not answer.
Again, the strategy of defining your opponent is at play. Obama knows that, of all the complex problems within the debate on immigration reform, the largest nationwide support is found within the DREAM Aact; so why not move? Even the Republicans have been exploring options publicly, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) front and center originally saying he will introduce a GOP version of the bill.
The Republicans, however, are up against a wall. How can they support anything that can be defined as amnesty and still hold on to their base?
Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) of SB1070 fame instantly attacked the President, calling his actions nothing but political pandering. But when asked directly if she would deport the young DREAMers, she responded, “I believe in the rule of law!”
Obama is winning because the GOP is scared to define its position, knowing it would be unpopular with Hispanics.
To define giving DREAMers a chance at staying as backdoor amnesty may be true, but don’t do it without realizing that the vast majority of Latinos and a majority of Americans think it’s a good idea. Our community as a whole wants to keep these young kids here and see them go to school, become citizens and contribute to our country.
Now in his “Etch-a-Sketch” primary election phase, Romney seems to be beginning to understand why applauding the work of Sheriff Joe Arpaio won’t help him gain traction with Latino voters. He is treading carefully. But, unless Romney clearly states he does not want to deport 1 million kids, his lack of clarity allows Obama to tell the Latino community that he does.
In one day, the President was able to steal any momentum the GOP may have had on immigration by moving on an executive order that goes beyond what Sen. Rubio had in proposing a “Dream Act Lite” bill.
Romney’s lack of clear definition allow Obama to write define his opponent. Still, word on the street is that the GOP will be announcing something soon.
So, tell us what we want to hear. Tell us you will let these DREAMers stay.
Jose Cruz is the editor of OurTiempo.com worked in the Clinton White House and on three Presidential campaigns. He is the founder of ImmigrationPAC a pro-comprehensive immigration reform Federal Political Action Committee and active political commentator.