Mitt Romney said Monday that he’s “studying” the proposal being drafted by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to legalize some of the children of illegal immigrants brought here through not fault of their own — signaling a potential shift in the hardline immigration stance the presumptive GOP nominee staked out in the primary contest.
With Mr. Rubio at his side at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, the former Massachusetts governor refused to say whether he supports the broad outlines of the freshman senator’s measure, which would create some sort of pathway to legal status for these young illegal immigrants — as opposed to the broader avenue to citizenship that has been included in the Democratic version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act.
“The senator’s proposal does not create that new category, but instead provides visas for those that come into the country, that came in, as young people with their families,” Mr. Romney told reporters. “I’m taking a look at his proposal. It has many features to be commended.”
Mr. Romney emerged as the Republican presidential field’s most ardent opponent of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and used the issue to blunt the rise of GOP opponents such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But that stance has complicated Mr. Romney’s outreach to Hispanic voters, polls suggest.
Mr. Romney’s rhetoric won him high praise from some of the party’s biggest hardliners on immigration, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer — the masterminds of S.B. 1070, the Arizona law that the Obama administration is challenging in arguments before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
But Mr. Romney himself acknowledged the need to increase his appeal to Hispanic voters at a closed-door fundraiser in Florida last week, where he warned that failing to win over Hispanic voters “spells doom for us.”
“We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party,” he said, reportedly arguing for the first time on the campaign trail that the party needs a “Republican DREAM Act.”
With that as a backdrop, politician pundits and political insiders have suggested that it would make sense for Mr. Romney to tap Mr. Rubio, a Cuban-American and rising star within Republican ranks, as his running mate.
Mr. Rubio also is urging his fellow Republicans to consider embracing a compromise to the Democratic proposal that has failed to pass Congress — thanks in large part to opposition to its path to citizenship.
His spokesman, Alex Conant, expects the senator will have legislation this summer.