Those are mostly noncontroversial, and Romney while campaigning in Florida’s primary had said he could support accommodating members of the military. He stopped short of embracing plans to create a path to citizenship for high-achieving high school graduates — part of the stalled Dream Act.
Romney was also silent on a plan U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had been working on to create legal status for young illegal immigrants, though not a new path to citizenship like the Dream Act. Obama’s announcement pre-empted Rubio, who was still trying to build Republican support and had not drafted the legislation, and put Republicans in a box.
Some criticized Obama for sidestepping Congress while others blasted it as “amnesty.” Romney on Thursday steered clear of the substance of the policy.
“We owe it to ourselves as Americans to ensure that our country remains the land of opportunity, both for those who were born here and for those who share our values, respect our laws, and want to come to our shores,” Romney said, concluding his speech with a story about his father who rose from humble beginnings.
Reaction was mixed.
“He has some very good proposals. They were thought out. I wish he’d given us more on the 11 million undocumented people already here, which is the trickiest and biggest problem,” said Ana Navarro, a former adviser to 2008 Republican nominee John McCain.
“His solution to the 11 million undocumented people in America is to make life so miserable for Latinos that they self-deport,” scoffed Paul Lopez, a Democratic city council member from Denver, who said Romney did little to ease people’s concerns about him.
Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, echoed those sentiments: “The bigger story is what he didn’t say. He missed an opportunity to lean more into that issue here.”
But she credited Romney for talking of the importance of protecting families with immigration policy and said his economic message will resonate with the hard-hit Hispanic community.
“A lot of times we’re seen as a one-issue demographic and we’re not,” said Florida state Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami. “Education, economic opportunity, jobs is something we care very deeply enough. He addressed that. He really made it clear that there is an alternative.”