President Obama executed a political masterstroke on Friday morning. He announced that undocumented immigrants brought here as children would be allowed to stay indefinitely if they complete high school or serve in the military. This is essentially the promise of the DREAM Act that Obama has urged Congress to pass and Republicans have blocked. The DREAM Act would offer the security of permanent residency, whereas Obama can only offer renewable work visas without legislation. (The executive branch can decide which undocumented immigrants to deport and which not to, but it cannot unilaterally create a path to citizenship.)
The DREAM Act is wildly popular among Latinos. The GOP has alienated most Latino voters by harboring an intensely anti-immigration movement on its right wing. Mitt Romney has been shameless about pandering to that element: he won anti-immigration crusader Tom Tancredo’s endorsement in 2008. In the recent Republican primaries he attacked staunch conservatives such as Newt Gingrich from the right on immigration, complaining that Gingrich admitted he had no intention of deporting grandmothers who have been here for over 25 years.
But now Romney is trying to win over Latinos. He recently announced the formation of a Latino outreach team and began sending out press releases in Spanish.