Just hours after Mitt Romney’s razor-close win in the Iowa caucuses, two of Congress’s most influential Latino lawmakers lashed out at the former Massachusetts governor’s attacks on the Dream act, including his likening it to a “handout.”
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairman, and Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, the House Democratic Caucus vice chairman, asserted on Wednesday that Romney’s promises to veto the legislation that would allow a citizenship path for undocumented immigrant students is a politically expedient appeal amid the GOP presidential primaries to tea party members and other immigration hard-liners.
But the two lawmakers say that Romney is painting himself into a corner--and may be headed to a “flip-flop” if he secures the Republican nomination--because Latinos are a key voter constituency that both parties are courting aggressively for the general election.
“This is not someone who is a friend of Latinos,” said Becerra during a conference call with reporters arranged by the Democratic National Committee. Both men also offered that Romney is putting his Republican Latino supporters in Congress who support the Dream Act in an uncomfortable position.
Their criticism came after Romney earlier on Wednesday reasserted his opposition to legislation that presents a path to citizenship for minors brought to the United States illegally, and have since earned a high school diploma or are in college or serve in the military. The legislation backed by President Obama has not passed Congress.
Romney had said last week that he would veto the legislation if it came before him as president. And during an appearance on Wednesday on CNN’s Starting Point With Soledad O’Brien, he asserted that the aim should instead be enforcement of existing immigration laws.
Romney added, "You know, the Hispanic-American voters I speak with are overwhelmingly concerned with opportunity.”
“They want good jobs in America and rising incomes. If they want a president who is going to talk to them about a handout or more benefits for free, they got that guy,” Romney said. “If they, instead, want a president who understands the economy, who has lived in the economy, and understands what it takes to help people get jobs, again, then I'm that person."
During the later conference call with reporters, Gonzalez said that describing such a path to citizenship for students and military members as a handout is “unconscionable” and “offensive.” He suggested that Romney may not be aware of the legislation's specifics.