* "Latino Republicans Respond to Romney's Speech" By Serafin Gómez, Fox News Latino (June 21, 2012)
Ballot Box Blog
Hispanic leader: Romney admitting immigration system is broken a 'breakthrough'
By Cameron Joseph
The Hill (June 21, 2012)
Mitt Romney has a long way to go in developing a detailed immigration policy, but his statement in a Thursday speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials that the system needed to be overhauled was a "breakthrough," according to one of those leaders.
"He actually said we have a broken immigration system," NALEO Executive Director Arturo Vargas told The Hill. "I think it was a breakthrough for him to acknowledge the system is broken - that's not something we've heard from him before."
Vargas said Romney's focus on the economy and immigration "shows he understands what the priorities are in the community," but said he needed to go further in outlining what his actual immigration reform proposals are.
Romney's speech offered new policy details in immigration, an issue that divides his party and is seen as crucial in an election against President Obama that could come down to Hispanic voters in swing states. He also didn't say whether he would uphold Obama's recent executive order not to deport undocumented immigrants who to the United States as children.
"He said, like his response was before, he'd propose a permanent solution. He hasn't said what that solution is yet," Vargas said. "People want specifics. He was much more specific on what he'd do on the economy than what he'd do on immigration."
Romney also reversed course on a key part of the DREAM Act, pledging to provide permanent residency for illegal immigrants who came to the United States and children and graduate from college. This is a major shift from Romney's message in the GOP primaries, when he only pledged to provide that path for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.
The DREAM Act would provide a path for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought into the country as children who go to college or serve in the military.
Vargas said those he'd talked to were mostly mixed on the speech, and that the thing most were happy about was Romney's call to keep families together.
Romney taunts Obama, ducks overall immigration fix
By Paul West | email@example.com
Los Angeles Times (June 21, 2012)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Accusing President Obama of taking Latino voters for granted, Mitt Romney told an influential Latino audience Thursday that he would "replace and supersede" Obama's new deportation policy for young immigrants but offered no details.
One day ahead of Obama's highly anticipated appearance before the same audience, the Republican presidential candidate said that he "won't settle for a stopgap measure," as he characterized the one Obama announced last week. It was Romney's first outreach to Latinos in the general-election campaign, and he used it to unveil family-friendly proposals aimed at immigrants who are current legal U.S. residents.
But he suggested no remedy for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country illegally. During the GOP primaries, he said the solution was for illegal immigrants to stop working and leave the country, which he termed "self-deportation."
"I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it more transparent and easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner. We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it," he said at an opening-day luncheon of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference.
Romney accused Obama, who hasn't spoken to the NALEO gathering since the 2008 campaign, of "taking your vote for granted." He added: "You do have an alternative, and your vote is more important now that ever before."
He received a polite reception from the bipartisan - though predominantly Democratic - organization. The only discordant note was a loud "boo" when Romney's call for the repeal of Obama's healthcare law drew a smattering of applause.
During his remarks, Romney touched on several new planks in his immigration policy, including reallocating the current number of green cards to give priority to legal immigrants who want to unite their families "under one roof." He also said he would exempt from green-card caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents.
The Romney campaign, in an email to reporters, also said Romney would raise limits on the number of immigrants from unspecified countries to improve the chances that "the best and brightest" could immigrate to the U.S. He drew applause after mentioning his policy of offering a path to citizenship for immigrants who serve in the military.
For years, partisan stalemate in Washington and divisions within the Republican Party have blocked action on a comprehensive immigration overhaul and are now complicating Romney's efforts to attract more Latino support. Conservatives have criticized Romney for not pushing back more aggressively against Obama's new policy to limit deportations of young immigrants, which they have labeled "back-door amnesty." If elected, Romney would have to either suspend or continue Obama's policy, but he has refused to say which path he would choose.
In his NALEO speech, his most important appearance before a Latino audience in the current campaign, Romney attacked Obama for his policy shift, arguing that the president failed to act until he was "facing a tough reelection and trying to secure your vote."
Obama, he said, "finally offered a temporary measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election. After 3½ years of putting every issue from loan guarantees to his donors to 'cash for clunkers,' putting all those things before immigration, now the president has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on Day 1, but didn't. I think you deserve better."
Romney finds himself on a knife-edge over the immigration issue. Earlier this year, he told GOP donors in Florida that a continued Democratic trend among Latino voters "spells doom" for Republicans if it isn't reversed.
But opinion polling over the last week indicated that, if anything, the president's policy shift has reinforced that trend. Several surveys found that his new deportation policy was very popular among Latino voters, many of whom had previously grown angry over the record number of deportations since Obama took office.
Immigration ranks low as a concern of most voters, but among Latinos "it is a mobilizing issue. It is personal," said Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political scientist. "It can get us to the polls," he told a panel discussion at the NALEO conference shortly before Romney spoke.
Dario Moreno, a Florida International University political scientist, said that "Republicans will have little chance of recapturing the White House if the president can mobilize Latino voters" as he did in 2008, when he drew 67% of the Latino vote. Recent polling shows Obama outperforming his 2008 share of the Latino vote against Romney, who has been hurt by his hard-line rhetoric on immigration during the GOP primaries.
Romney ran to the right of his primary opponents on immigration, proposing "self-deportation" as a solution to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country. He promised to veto the Dream Act, a Democratic proposal that would provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants.
More recently, Romney had sought to ally himself on the issue with Florida's popular Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban American conservative who had been attempting to draft a Republican alternative to the Dream Act that wouldn't include a path to citizenship. After Obama's recent policy shift, however, the senator said he was dropping the idea.
A new poll conducted in the wake of Obama's new immigration policy showed that he had improved his standing among Latino voters. He increased his edge over Romney among Latinos by eight percentage points from a month ago, according to a Quinnipiac University opinion survey released Thursday. The poll showed Obama with a four-point lead over Romney in Florida, reversing a six-point deficit for the Democrat in a similar survey conducted last month.
At NALEO, Jeb Bush Upstages Romney On His Home Turf
By Pema Levy
TPM (June 21, 2012)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may be a surrogate for Mitt Romney, but he upstaged the presumptive Republican nominee while speaking on his home turf at the NALEO conference in Orlando Thursday.
In Romney's speech to the group of elected Latino leaders from throughout the country, he talked about the economic plight of Latinos and outlined his stance on immigration reform in broad strokes, drawing both a few boos and polite applause at various points.
Bush, who spoke after Romney, gave a rousing speech on the issue he is most known for - one that hits close to home for many Latinos: education.
Bush got down to brass tacks with a list of ways to improve the education system, sprinkled with success stories and statistics from his time as governor.
Education is a top concern for Latinos, and Bush spoke about the issue with passion, humor and even some Spanish. He drew applause and laughter more often then Romney. He covered what he said was a failing elementary school system, literacy and school choice - which he likened, in Spanish, to the many options available in a supermarket milk aisle.
"Choice is as American as apple pie," Bush said, smiling. "Or as American as un taco de carbon."
Prefacing his comments on the controversial subject of school choice, he warned that his "might be the most politically incorrect" viewpoint.
Education, Bush said, "should be the highest priority for mayors, this should be the highest priority for business leaders, this should be what America defines itself going forward," Bush said. "And if we get this right, our diversity becomes a strength, our country will prosper, our country will continue to be the greatest on the face of the earth." He ended with a "Bienvenidos a Florida."
Ana Navarro, Hispanic campaign chairwoman for John McCain in 2008 and an adviser to Jon Huntsman in 2012, indicated on Twitter that Bush was a much bigger hit among Latinos than Romney.
Texas Democratic Party on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 in a quoted comment.
Texas Democratic Party says Texas has 668 Latino elected Democrats, 60 elected Latino Republicans
Austin-American Statesman (June 21, 2012)
The Truth-O-Meter Says:
"In Texas, there are 668 Democratic Hispanic elected officials to the 60 in the Republican Party."
As noted in a March 3, 2012, Texas Tribune news article, attorney George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush, has been pitching afresh for a group he helped found, the Hispanic Republicans of Texas.
"Politics is in my blood," the Tribune story quotes Bush as saying in a story about the group's political action committee.
But Rebecca Acuña, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, sounded skeptical of the PAC's chances of helping Republican Hispanics advance. Acuña told the Tribune: "They are delusional if they think they're making any inroads with Latinos. In Texas, there are 668 Democratic Hispanic elected officials to the 60 in the Republican Party."
Do Hispanic Democratic elected officials so greatly outnumber their Latino Republican counterparts in Texas?
Looked entirely like it -- at first.
To our inquiry, Acuña sent us portions of a 2011 directory of Latino elected officials compiled by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which describes itself as the nonpartisan leadership organization of the nation's more than 6,000 Latino elected and appointed officials.
The chart provided by Acuña says that of 2,520 Hispanic elected officials in Texas in January 2011, 668 were Democrats and 60 were Republicans, matching the figures aired to the Tribune. Two school board members were counted as Independents.
According to the chart, 496 elected Latino officials in Texas held nonpartisan offices, mainly serving in municipal government or on school boards, and another 1,294 Latino elected officials, also mostly serving on school boards or in municipal offices, were listed as "no party stated."
And how does NALEO gather all this?
A methodology section of the 2011 directory says the NALEO Educational Fund has regularly attempted to tabulate Latino elected officials since 1984. For the 2011 check, NALEO staff contacted each identified official by phone or fax to ask whether they were indeed Latino, the group says.
"The phone verification process proved invaluable," the methodology section says. "Many individuals having Spanish surnames were in fact, not Latino. Conversely, other individuals with non-Spanish surnames were identified as being Latino."
Rosalind Gold, a senior director for the NALEO Educational Fund, told us in a telephone interview that how officeholders self-identify has proved pivotal. "We very much rely on self-identification in determining who is and who is not Latino," Gold said.
By email, Martha Recio, a NALEO research assistant, confirmed the figures cited for 2011.
At our request, NALEO also composed a chart showing its identified party breakdowns for Texas Latino elected officials for 2001 through 2011.
The group's determinations of party affiliations have been incomplete because, Gold told us, so many local offices are filled in non-partisan elections; such candidates do not run as party nominees. In each of the years, at least 68 percent of the Latino elected officials tabulated by NALEO were not identified by party affiliation.
Also, Gold said, if the group could not verify an officeholder's party membership by telephoning their office, it did not attempt to do so by tapping other sources. NALEO doesn't have resources to do that, she said. Sometimes, too, Gold said, an officeholder declined to discuss his or her party membership.
We asked Gold if it's fair to make comparisons limited to its counts of Republican and Democratic Latino elected officials when most of the group's identified Latino elected officials are not identified by party. Gold replied that this is the kind of context NALEO provides when discussing its counts. "We say that of the elected officials we were able to verify affiliation for, here is the party breakdown," she said.
Back to the Texas counts: Among officeholders tabulated as Democrats or Republicans, the share of Democratic elected officeholders dropped from 32 percent in 2001 to 20 percent in 2010 before reaching nearly 27 percent in 2011. The relative share of Latino Republican officeholders was .7 percent in 2001, escalating to .9 percent in 2010 and 2.4 percent in 2011, according to the group.
With so many party affiliations not nailed down, we wouldn't blame anyone for ruling out comparisons of results for different years. That misgiving aside, though, it looks like the ratio of elected Hispanic Democrats to Republican Latinos in Texas has narrowed. The NALEO counts suggest there were nearly 45 Hispanic Texas Democrats per Republican counterpart in 2001, 34 in 2005 and 11 in 2011.
The Texas Democratic Party's spokeswoman correctly cited two figures from the 2011 NALEO directory suggesting that Latino elected Democrats in Texas greatly outnumber their Republican counterparts.
Still, this claim is missing substantive context -- that NALEO did not determine the party memberships of most Latino Texas officeholders. If this were done, the Democratic-Republican ratio might change.
We rate the claim Mostly True
Respond to Romney's Speech
By Serafin Gómez
Fox News Latino (June 21, 2012)
The Latino vote is a huge bloc of voters that we believe is critical, in terms of both the national numbers but also in particular states.
- Max Sevillia, the policy director for NALEO
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - After Mitt Romney's 20 minute speech to the nation's largest gathering of Latino lawmakers, supporters of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee held a Cafe con Leche reception down the hall at the Disney hotel. But less than an hour after Romney's speech,, there were only five people left in the room-- three of them were there to work the espresso machine.
The tepid response during the speech measured only slightly better than the lukewarm coffee reception with the stacks of Romney campaign bumper stickers left untouched. Light applause, and polite head-nods were the most common gestures during the former Massachusetts governor's remarks as opposed to the enthusiastic cheering Romney normally encounters at his campaign events.
The majority of those listening to Romney's speech Thursday were elected and appointed officials who already belong to political parties--mostly Democrats -- and who have long ago picked a side.
"Let's face it, this is a crowd of folks already involved in politics. The battle lines were drawn in this crowd," said Ana Navarro, an advisor to former Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush and now a political consultant. "I think there were very few swing voters inside this crowd."
"He wasn't speaking to this crowd, he was speaking to the (Latino) community at large," she added.
"I am glad he was here. Romney came in front of a group of people who are skeptical of him to begin with, and he tried his best, I believe, to inform us of his agenda, " said Raymond Sanchez, former president of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the group organizing the convention at Disney this week.
The Latino vote overall is not one uniform bloc that will automatically side with one political party and much of their electoral strength lies in key swing states-- a huge appeal for both Romney and President Barack Obama, who addresses the convention on Friday.
"The Latino vote is a huge bloc of voters that we believe is critical, in terms of both the national numbers but also in particular states," said Max Sevillia, the policy director for NALEO, "Whether it be Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada. The Latino vote, that bloc is larger than what we have seen in years past."
Serafin Gomez is the Miami Bureau Producer for FOX News Channel. Fin covers politics, Florida, and Latin America. Follow Fin on Twitter: @Finnygo.