Mitt Romney is back in campaign mode and reminding Utahns why he lost the last time he ran for something.
Mostly, he opened his mouth.
On Monday Romney spoke to the Utah County Republican Women and reminded Utahns that his views on immigration are starkly more conservative than even the conservatives in Utah County.
Romney doesn’t need to pander to conservatives; he is already largely considered the front-runner in Utah’s U.S. Senate race. Unfortunately, Romney wasn’t pandering.
“I’m also probably more of a hawk on immigration than even the president,” Romney said. “My view was that these DACA kids shouldn’t all be allowed to stay in the country illegally, but President [Obama] and both parties said, ‘No, we’re going to let the 1.8 million stay in the country and give them legal residence, legal status.’ That was not my posture.”
Tribune Washington bureau chief Thomas Burr reported that Romney’s campaign “later clarified that the young immigrants should have some protection but would have to ‘do more to justify permanent residence here’ like schooling or military service.”
Romney’s position is far more conservative than most Utahns’. A Tribune/Hinckley Institute poll in January had 69 percent of Utahns in favor of allowing Dreamers to stay and work in the country that gave them a path to success, including 61 percent of Utahns who say they are Republicans.
Romney should be leading out on this issue and pushing for a solution, rather than stoking the fires of dissent. There are economic and cultural benefits to America’s melting pot, and Romney particularly has benefited from those. He should abandon talk of mass deportations and walls in favor of positive messaging about finding a solution.
His extreme position will be at odds with others in Utah’s congressional delegation. For instance, Rep. Mia Love supports the USA Act, which includes a path to citizenship.
Romney’s position is also at odds with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ President Russell M. Nelson, who said Dreamers “have demonstrated a capacity to serve and contribute positively in our society, and we believe they should be granted the opportunity to continue to do so.”
The nonpartisan nonprofit organization Mormon Women for Ethical Government wrote an open letter to Romney, published in the Tribune, that expressed their dismay about his comments on Dreamers. They hope to persuade Romney “to consider a more nuanced, thoughtful and ethical approach to immigration reform.”
On immigration, Romney is behind the curve. When it comes to Dreamers, Romney should error on the side of compassion and fairness. That’s the Utah way.