Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce this afternoon in Los Angeles, saying he was convinced the Republican party “is the rightful home of Hispanic Americans.” Romney added he was he was proud of representing the party of Latinos such as Governors Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Tea Party Senate candidate Ted Cruz. He did not shy away, however, from reaffirming his opposition to Obama‘s deferred action program, popular among U.S. Latinos. Romney said he would propose a Dream Act for those who serve in the military, omitting the component on Dreamers attending college.
“Instead of playing immigration politics with these children, I will pursue permanent immigration reform, and I will start by ensuring that those who serve in our military have the opportunity to become permanent legal residents of the country they fought to defend,” said Romney. He said, however he opposes amnesty, and will establish an employment verification system and work to control the border. Romney added he would structure the temporary guest worker program to meet employer needs and ensure green cards for those who pursue an advanced degree.
The majority of Romney’s speech, however, focused on his economic platform. Saying Latinos had been especially hard hit by the economy, Romney blasted the Obama administration, stating that Hispanic unemployment is over 10 percent and there are two million more Latinos living in poverty. “In 2008, candidate Obama promised us limitless hope. What we got instead is a world where hope has painful limits – limits that make it harder to start a business, to grow a business, or to find a job,” Romney said.
Romney then outlined a five-point plan to grow the economy: “take advantage of our energy resources, fix our schools, open more trade, cut the deficit, and champion small business.” Romney stressed school choice for low-income and special ed students, increased trade to Latin America, and lowering taxes.
Romney also said he would repeal Obamacare. ”Obamacare will replace consumer choice with government choice,” saying that three-quarters of U.S. Chamber of Commerce members said they are less likely to hire people because of Obamacare. ”I will repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that increase choice,” he said. Romney also promised to cut the deficit by reducing federal spending by $500 billion, including cuts in transportation, legal services, and capping Medicaid to the rate of inflation plus one percent.
Two Latino Democratic congressmen, Charles Gonzalez and Xavier Becerra, held a conference call to refute Romney’s remarks.
“Once again he makes it clear that he meant what he said about vetoing the Dream Act, because for him the Dream Act is tantamount to amnesty,” said Congressman Becerra. Becerra also criticized Romney’s comments about cutting legal services. ”Legal services are the only lifeline low-income families have, when they are one or two paychecks away from paying their mortgage,” he said.
Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, one of the Juntos con Romney co-chairs, defended Governor Romney’s remarks on immigration. ”He’s put forth a serious plan to strengthen our legal immigration system bring immediate families together kept apart by government red tape, and reward those who serve our country honorably with legal residency.”
And Hector Barreto Jr, who headed the Small Business Administration under George W. Bush, said to the crowd of Hispanic business owners and entrepreneurs that Romney is a “true champion of small business” who can provide relief to 3 million Latino businesses.