by Félix Pérez
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed Hispanics at two high-profile events this week, and despite being pressed on whether he would reverse a program that allows students who were brought here as children to live and work legally, Romney repeatedly declined to address the issue.
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During his appearance on Univisión, a Spanish-language television network, Romney did not offer a direct response to whether he would discontinue President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Deferred Action program halts for two years the deportation of qualified DREAMer students who arrived in this country as children, have done well in school, worked hard and played by the rules. The program does not create a pathway to citizenship or provide permanent legal status.
“This is something that’s going to have to be worked out by the Republicans and Democrats together,” said Romney. He likewise sidestepped the issue when addressing the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Romney has been criticized for promising to veto the DREAM Act, legislation blocked by congressional Republican leaders that would provide a path to legalization for qualifying students who enrolled in college or joined the military, and have been raised in the United States.
Doubling down on a recurrent theme from last month’s Republican National Convention and a line of attack increasingly used by Romney and his surrogates, Romney sought to drive a wedge between teachers and the unions they created to speak on behalf of their students and their profession.
Echoing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s attack on teacher unions at the Republican convention, Romney said, “I think we have to change from a union-dominated setting to one where the very best and brightest are highly-compensated, they become mentor teachers.” He added, “I don’t want the unions telling us how we should attract people into a profession.”
Romney’s professed respect for teachers is at odds with his admiration for Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich, two governors who have slashed funding to schools and led efforts to take away the right of educators to speak out on behalf of their students through collective bargaining. Both governors were given prominent speaking roles at Romney’s Republican convention.
Romney also reiterated his plan to divert federal education funding for use as vouchers for private schools, parochial schools, online schools, for-profit schools and other non-public schools.
Under my federal plan, I’m going to take dollars that normally are sent to states and school districts. I’m going to instead say, ‘That goes to the child to take to him or her to the school of their choice,’ vouched Romney.
Responding to a college student who asked what his plan was to ease student loan debt, Romney spoke about job creation. Missing, however, was any mention that the budget plan lauded by Romney and written by his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, would cut Pell Grants to more than 9 million college students by more than $1,000 in 2014. Over the next decade, more than 1 million students would lose this aid entirely.
Romney’s outreach to Hispanics comes amid the release this week of a damaging video of him, secretly taped, speaking at a fundraiser with wealthy donors. At the event, Romney said:
- “My job is not to worry about” the 47 percent of Americans who “don’t pay income taxes” and believe they are “victims” entitled to government handouts.
- He would have a better shot at beating President Obama if his parents were Mexican. “Had [my father] been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this.”