Mitt Romney took a dramatically softer tone on immigration in his speech to Latino officials on Thursday than his harsh rhetoric on this issue during the primary campaign, but the likely Republican presidential nominee’s remarks fell flat with immigration advocates, who want him to offer solid policy suggestions and are wary of his past tough line on the issue.
Romney tacked hard to the right on immigration during his nomination fight, as he sought to woo conservative Republican primary voters from rivals who took more moderate positions. During the primary campaign, Romney endorsed an Arizona state law giving the police expanded powers to stop anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, which many Latinos view as racial profiling. He also called for the “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants and promised to repeal the Dream Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants brought into the country as children, if the measure were to pass Congress.
But the audience for the general election on Nov. 6 is more moderate on immigration than Republican primary voters. Romney also came under pressure to offer proposals on immigration when President Barack Obama announced a plan on Friday that will let hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people to avoid being shipped home.
“The political environment now requires that he say something sympathetic to immigrants. The political environment during the primaries required that he say something negative. Where he actually stands is still a mystery,” said Jennifer Gordon, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and expert on immigration law.
“Clearly, after Obama issued his order last week, it was on Romney to step up and say something,” she said.