Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney can secure the Hispanic vote if he embraces changes to US immigration policy, says an influential Hispanic community leader.
09 May 2012
Romney campaign urged to support US immigration changes
An influential Hispanic community leader has urged Mitt Romney's presidential campaign to embrace changes to US immigration policy which would save children of illegal immigrants from the risk of deportation
Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, has said former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for November's presidential election, can secure Hispanic voters' support if he embraces changes to US immigration policy.
The Hispanic community is seen as a vital group in November's election, with many believing the community hold the deciding vote. As many Hispanics have strong ties to Central and South America, immigration is predictably an important issue.
The Republican Party has traditionally favoured a tough stance on US immigration and Mr Romney has previously pitched a harsh line, including promising to veto President Obama's much maligned DREAM Act if he is elected president.
The DREAM Act, which has stalled in both houses of Congress, would provide children of illegal immigrants who either attend college or serve in the military a path to citizenship. However, the Republican Party's reluctance to accept such a stance on immigration has led some to speculate that the Republicans have alienated the growing Hispanic community.
There has been significant pressure in recent months for the Republican Party to formulate an alternative to the DREAM Act and Floridian Senator Marco Rubio, who is considered the favourite to be offered the Vice Presidency in a Romney administration, proposed his own alternative in recent weeks.
Senator Rubio's plan in essence is similar to the president's in that it would address children of illegal immigrants. Instead of providing a path to citizenship however, Senator Rubio's plan would grant children of illegal immigrants a non-immigrant US visa after serving in the military, but not if they attend college.
Throughout the Republican primary, Mr Romney has promoted a tough stance to immigration and has previously spoken in support of Arizona's tough immigration law which is currently being heard before the Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality.
However, now the Republican nomination is all but secured, Mr Romney has faced a challenge to appeal to the Hispanic voters his previous rhetoric risked alienating. In recent weeks Mr Romney has attempted to boost his appeal to Hispanic voters, most notably by removing Kansan Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the author of Arizona's SB 1070 law, from his campaign.
Now, Reverend Rodriguez has spoken out in support of Mr Romney's campaign after initial doubts were expressed in February.
"I can tell you the Romney campaign assured me of the importance of the Hispanic community as it concerns the future of this nation and even the future of the conservative movement," said Reverend Rodriguez.
"They understand. They affirmed it. They celebrated it."
While the reverend did not go so far as to endorse Mr Romney, as a pastor he does not endorse candidates, during the 2004 presidential election when President Bush secured a second term by defeating Democratic Senator John Kerry, Reverend Rodriguez worked with Republicans to secure a record 44% support for the then-incumbent president.
Reverend Rodriguez admitted the Romney campaign has a long way to go to secure the Hispanic vote but said that if the Romney campaign were to take the 'ginormous step' to embrace and even further Senator Rubio's immigration proposal, his reputation within Hispanic communities would be strengthened.
Reverend Rodriguez admitted that "the Romney campaign is still far behind" but expressed his belief that based upon the reassurances he had received from the former governor's campaign, the task was not insurmountable.
"It provides a great platform for us to go forward from."
The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.