President Obama pushed the immigration debate back into the campaign spotlight Friday when he announced an executive order that appears to be modeled on the DREAM Act. The move means big, sweeping changes for millions of children of illegal immigrants — and it effectively puts Mitt Romney in a box.
Romney has pledged to veto the version of the DREAM Act passed by the House and killed by conservatives in the Senate in 2010, and has drawn the ire of Hispanic activists by packing his primary campaign full of advisers and supporters hailing from the anti-immigration right.
In recent days, Romney’s stepped up his outreach efforts to Hispanics, a demographic that’s still largely uninterested in his candidacy. But he’s done it by avoiding any discussion of immigration at all costs — and has declined to tailor a campaign message specifically to the Hispanic community. When he spoke to the conservative Latino Coalition last month, he didn’t bring up immigration. He keeps his message to Hispanics focused solely on the economy.
But Obama’s mini-DREAM Act move will almost certainly force Romney’s hand.
Some Republican consultants weighed in to TPM on how Romney should begin a discussion about a hot-button issue he has expressly avoided.
From Ana Navarro, Hispanic campaign chairwoman for John McCain in 2008 and an adviser to Jon Huntsman in 2012:
[Romney] should express sympathy towards plight of young people brought here through no fault of their own. 2) Remind community that there has been a litany of immigration promises from Obama in last four years, resulting in nothing but higher deportations; 3) blast the decision as blatantly political. Why has it taken him three years to do it? Because Obama has an intensity and turn-out problem with Latinos; 4) go back to talking [about] disastrous economic realities for Latinos under Obama.
From Ford O’Connell, Republican consultant and political analyst:
Romney’s got to call the president on this political ploy. Something along the line of:
“It is clear that Obama is hitting the panic button and knows he could very well lose this election. He doesn’t have a jobs plan for the future that will lead America back to prosperity, so rather than trying to find solutions to our most pressing problems, he has decided to circumvent the legislative process in an effort to score some cheap political points. What else can we expect from a president who chooses to be a campaigner-in-chief rather than a commander-in-chief?”