Politics

06.21.12

Romney's Immigration Speech: Interesting Definition of Progress

Mitt Romney's big immigration speech today seemed to fall pretty flat. He didn't really answer the question on whether he'd support the policy Obama announced last week. The answer, he said, is that he'd create his own set of policies that would be permanent instead of temporary. Woo hoo.

As has become his custom, he tossed out a few casual lies, the most notable one being that Obama ignored the Latino community until now:

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.

Last week, the President finally offered a temporary measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election.  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.

This sounds persuasive if you don't know what actually happened in 2009. Obama signaled in April 2009 that he wanted comprehensive immigration reform to be a first-year issue. So the White House started holding meetings on the issue, but it came clear that he'd have no GOP support at all. Remember that at that time, Al Franken wasn't yet sworn in, so Obama had only 59 votes in the Senate, not the needed 60.

Plus, Obama ran into some opposition in his own party, in both houses. The idea that Obama "was free to pursue any policy he pleased" assumes that when the president says jump, the legislators of his party say how high. That was true of the Bush-era GOP, because they march in a Politburo kind of lockstep for the sake of political power, but it certainly isn't true of Democrats.

So anyway, Obama didn't have the votes, and he announced in May 2009 that he'd shelve comprehensive reform and start with border enforcement. The border enforcement, as is now well known, has been more aggressive and led to more deportations than any previous administration since immigration became a crisis, but since the idea that Obama could be aggressively enforcing the law just doesn't sound right for someone who's a Kenyan socialist America destroyer, the Republicans have simply dismissed this fact. In other words, he did the only thing he could do to try to win GOP support, and he did it well, and they don't support him anyway.

As to Romney's proposals. The lede coming out of this will be that Romney dropped his confrontational stance from the primaries and moderated his position etc etc., but that isn't saying much. It's the polite way of saying, "Well, Romney used brown people to whip white Republican primary voters into a rage against Rick Perry, and he's here to say he won't do that sort of thing this fall." That was the real point of the appearance.

He did have one good idea, increasing work visas for highly skilled immigrants, whcih very much needs to be done and is one of Washington's few genuinely bipartisan problems. He proposed a path to citizenship for illegals who serve in the military. Wait--illegals can serve in the military? Well, sort of. Mostly if they used fake papers to get in. There exists such a path to citizenship now, although it is not guaranteed, so this seems mainly a fine-tuning of a policy already somewhat in place. And I have to say, all this seems even to this liberal awfully generous; can you imagine the balls it takes to join the military based on fake papers? Crikey, I wouldn't even check out a library book. Maybe the military is so desparate for people they don't even really check these days.

Anyway, this speech and these proposals won't move the needle much. Far better for the Republicans to get a bunch of pretty Latinos with nice smiles up there on stage singing and dancing at the convention. That's the kind of race outreach they know how to do best.