In June, the Obama administration announced a new process that grants work permits and temporary stays of deportation to young undocumented immigrants who want to go to college or serve in the military. On Monday, after months of silence on the issue, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he will allow some of these young immigrants to stay in the country—at least temporarily.
"The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," Romney told the Denver Post. "Before those visas have expired, we will have the full immigration-reform plan that I've proposed."
When the Obama policy was first announced, conservatives called the move illegal and unconstitutional; Romney's own immigration adviser, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is actually representing federal immigration enforcement agents suing to block it. It will be interesting to watch Republicans try to defend Romney's extension of what National Review called a violation of "the constitutional separation of powers that defines the political architecture of our republic."
So why is Romney suddenly taking a more compassionate tone on immigration and avoiding the "self-deportation" talk he deployed in the GOP primary? President Obama, despite having his immigration reform plans blocked in Congress and presiding over record numbers of deportations, is crushing Romney among Latinos, winning more than 70 percent of the vote in the latest Latino Decisions tracking poll. Siphoning off just a few Latino voters in swing states like Colorado and Florida could mean all the difference.
Just promising not to cancel deportation waivers and work authorization for young immigrants, however, is probably not going to be enough to put Romney over the hump with Latinos. The GOP candidates still hasn't said what he'd do if he failed to pass his hypothetical immigration reform bill, as Obama and George W. Bush did before him. He also hasn't said what he'd do with the young immigrants who benefited from Obama's plan or any of the other approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants under his "full immigration reform plan." Though unauthorized immigrants helped by the Obama policy may breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a President Romney wouldn't immediately try to kick them out of the country, Romney has also committed to vetoing the DREAM Act, which is the only permanent solution that allows them to stay in the country.