The Denver Post published an interview with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday in which the candidate altered his stance on immigration, promising that if he is elected, he will maintain a program enacted by the Obama administration that prevents the deportation of young illegal immigrants.
While Romney might not be making one of the blatant mistakes he’s become known for this election season, the move holds little political value for his campaign — it won’t impact the Latino vote to any significant extent, and it could potentially alienate his more conservative supporters.
At first glance, supporting Obama’s program seems like a great move for Romney. He comes off as open-minded and sympathetic toward a demographic that has criticized him for being out-of-touch. Changing his stance could also be a sign of compromise in an extremely uncompromising election.
Upon further inspection, however, the decision seems to be almost entirely politically motivated. In light of the fact that Romney has had to put his foot in his mouth more than once while discussing immigration policy, his new position is more a political Band-Aid than a genuine effort to improve important immigration issues. It should also be noted that rather than adding anything to the debate on the immigration issue, Romney is simply taking one pre-existing program and promising not to cancel it. And he isn’t even referencing actual immigrants — since the program deals only with younger illegal “immigrants” — most of whom did not choose to come here, but were brought to the United States at a young age — this is far from an actual plan to tackle the problem of illegal immigration.
Though making such a politically — rather than ethically — motivated decision might seem harmless, Romney’s new stance could prove detrimental to his campaign and his complete plan for immigration, which he says will be implemented in his first term.
With relatively high Latino populations in swing states such as Colorado and Nevada, the Latino vote will be a major determining factor in the election. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, however, 69 percent of Latino voters support Obama as of last month. To change the minds of such an overwhelming majority would require much more effort on Romney’s part than agreeing once with Obama — such as creating his own policy and campaigning with it openly.
Obviously, Romney isn’t approaching the Latino voting bloc as effectively as he could be. According to a CNN poll taken last month, 44 percent of Latino voters consider the economy to be the most important issue facing the country today versus 14 percent who chose immigration. To appeal to a demographic that overwhelmingly supports Obama — who has been criticized for vague and ineffective economic policy — Romney should have focused on this rather than make a small compromise to his immigration policy.
His compromise will, however, be seriously taken into account by another demographic: staunch conservatives, who will interpret the move as weakness on Romney’s part. It also might offend those who strongly believe in rigid anti-immigration policy. This is a group of voters that Romney has locked down. Though it is unlikely conservatives will instead support Obama, Romney should be keeping them as close as possible.
Romney’s commitment to continue Obama’s immigration program is inconsistent with his previously harsh immigration policy, which could cause problems down the road if he is elected president. And Romney will have trouble following through on his other initiatives regarding immigration if he has to continue supporting a policy that isn’t consistent with his platform. To truly improve his numbers in the polls, Romney must focus on making concrete and effective policies rather than insignificant compromises.
Burke Gibson is a sophomore majoring in economics and is the Daily Trojan’s chief copy editor.