WASHINGTON — With immigration suddenly taking a high profile in the presidential campaign, this week President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each address the nation’s largest gathering of Latino officials — in the swing state of Florida.
At a glance, as immigration moves to the front burner:
Romney speaks Thursday and Obama Friday at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Annual Conference in Orlando. The expectation is they will want to make strong pitches for the Hispanic vote — which may be key in several battleground states.
Obama comes to the convention after his administration decided last Friday to stop deporting immigrant students in the U.S. illegally.
Romney comes to NALEO as an anti-illegal immigrant hard-liner — who may be softening for the November election.
The Sunday news: Romney — in his first non-Fox News interview since clinching the GOP nomination — repeatedly declined on a CBS “Face the Nation” interview to say whether he would repeal — Obama’s new policy.
Romney was critical of the Obama announcement on Friday — he said he did not like the Department of Homeland Security using what it said was discretionary authority.
But Romney did seem open to help, a sharp contrast to his anti-immigration stand during the GOP primary.
“With regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is. This is somebody Congress has been working on, and I thought we were about to see some proposals brought forward by Senator Marco Rubio and by Democrat senators,” Romney told host Bob Schieffer.
He said that politics played “a big part” in Obama’s decision to create a stopgap solution.
“Well, I think the timing is pretty clear. If he — if he really wanted to make a solution that dealt with these kids or with illegal immigration in America, then this is something he would have taken up in his first 3 years, not in his last few months,” Romney said.
Mitt, evolving or revolving? White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe on ABC News’ “This Week” noted some of Romney’s biggest anti-illegal immigration stands during the primary when he was wooing the hard-right Republican vote.
Plouffe told George Stephanopoulos — in reaction to Romney’s CBS comments — “it’s ironic coming from Governor Romney who said he would veto the DREAM Act, whose immigration policy during the primary seemed to consist of just sending 11 million people home, asking them to self-deport.”
Self-deportation, say what? Romney coined the phrase at the Jan. 23 NBC GOP primary debate in Florida. Regarding illegal immigrants, Romney said “the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”
Walking that line: Former rival Rick Santorum — even as he was trying to be supportive of Romney — had a hard time with Romney’s new sympathy towards illegal immigrants and a compromise being crafted by Rubio (R-Fla.), mentioned as a possible Romney running mate.
“Well, he is trying to walk a line as not to sound like he is hostile to Latinos,” Santorum told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.”