Upon further review, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is, in fact, basically against President Barack Obama’s deferred action program intended to let some undocumented immigrants avoid deportation.
Romney told the Denver Post Monday that if he won the presidency the candidate would not revoke deportation exemptions already granted by the Obama administration. Romney did not say to the Post if he would continue the program.
However, Romney clarified in comments to the Boston Globe yesterday that he would end deferred action upon taking office in January 2013, if elected.
Whatever the political outcome of Romney’s statements, the policy outcome is clear: Ending deferred action a few months after it started would render the program mostly ineffective.
Obama announced in June a deferred action program created via executive order, which rolled out August 15. The program grants a two-year deportation reprieve and work license for undocumented immigrants age 30 and under with a few qualifications. For example, the applicant must show either a high school diploma or its equivalent, or demonstrate that they received an honorable military discharge.
The Migration Policy Institute now estimates that 1.8 million immigrants living in America may qualify for the program. However, these immigrants must go through a complex application process and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services then must process and approve the applications.
As of September 19, the federal agency had taken in 82,361 applications and completed just 29. So a Romney presidency would end a program that has only helped a small fraction of the people it is intended to assist.
Douglas Rivlin, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago), a national voice on immigration citizenship issues, says that Romney’s position means qualified applicants should apply now so they can get their application processed by next year “in the unlikely event that the president is Mitt Romney on January 20.”
Rivlin says that U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services, a bare bones federal agency that relies on application fees – the deferred action fee is $465, “is famous for long lag times.”
Meanwhile, Romney’s position adds further political intrigue to the first presidential debate tonight in Denver. The former Massachusetts governor has so far tried to thread the needle between maintaining the support of a Republican base energetically against deferred action and Latino voters that strongly favor the policy. Prior to his statements this week, he dodged taking a deferred action position, most notably in an interview two weeks ago with Univision.
According to a poll released by CNN yesterday, Obama is in a commanding 70 percent to 26 percent lead among Latino voters.
As for Republican response to Romney’s position, staunch deferred action foes have largely kept quiet.