What Romney Said, And Didn't Say, On Immigration
June 22, 2012

In Governor Mitt Romney's remarks on immigration in front of the National Association of Latino Elected And Appointed Officials, the Republican candidate softened his tone, and shied away from promoting "self deportation," as he has during the GOP primaries.

Instead, he spoke about making legal immigration easier, helping foreigners who earn advanced degrees in this country stay, as well as beefing up border security and employment verification. An outline of his immigration platform is available now on his campaign website.

One of the new points he brought up in his NALEO speech was keeping families together through changing green card policies.

"As president, I would reallocate green cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof," Romney said. "And we will exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents."

But University of Houston Law Center professor Michael Olivas suggests presidents don't quite have that much authority, since the quotas are defined in a federal statute.

"Well that would be great, but he is not going to do that as president," Olivas said. "He may convince Congress to do so. Although Congress has gotten tighter with those than ever, and that is the reason we have backlogs."

Last year the U.S. let in 108,000 immigrants in that category, and the wait time is two to three years.

Cyrus Mehta, a New York immigration attorney and adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School, applauded Romney's interest in a long-term policy solution, and easing the path for family reunification.

"I was pleasantly surprised," Mehta said. "I realized that both Romney and Obama are taking the whole issue of immigration seriously, and realizing that it needs reform."

Still, Mehta warned that it is hard to evaluate Romney's position on green cards without more details.

"What he did not say is whether he will propose that some other family category is abolished in order to keep the immigrant visa numbers the same," he said.

It is unclear whether Romney's idea for improving green card access for certain categories of immigrants would come at the expense of other categories. Romney did not mention fixing the backlog of visas for the adult children of legal permanent residents, where the wait time can already exceed 20 years.

Many observers feel the most telling moments in the speech were those that weren't said.

Romney avoided any mention of the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth, which he previously said he would veto. While Romney criticized President Obama's new administrative policy of halting deportations for young undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, he did not clarify whether he would let that policy stand if elected.

Instead, he said he would put in place his own "long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure, " but offered no specifics.

That omission raised eyebrows from both sides of the immigration debate.

Dan Stein from the group Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors restricting immigration, said in a press release that Romney needs to be more forthcoming about what he meant by replacing Obama's newest deportation policy.

"Would it be superseded and replaced by a 'super-sized' legislated amnesty that Gov. Romney formerly vowed to veto, or would it be superseded and replaced by a meaningful effort to encourage illegal aliens to return to their home countries?" Stein asked.

NALEO Address by Governor Mitt Romney

Watch live streaming video from naleo at livestream.com