MIAMI – In the Latino hotbed of Miami, Mitt Romney today hit back at Newt Gingrich’s claims that the former Massachusetts governor is “anti-immigrant” because of his policies on how to address the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country.
“It’s very sad for a candidate to resort to that sort of epithet,” Romney told Univision’s Jorge Ramos at a Univision forum here. “It’s just inappropriate. There are differences between candidates on different issues, but we don’t attack each other with those types of terrible terms. I’m not anti-immigrant, I’m pro-immigrant. I like immigration. Immigration has been an extraordinary source of strength in this country, as I’m sure you know. Immigrants form more businesses than do domestic-born Americans. The immigrant population in this country has created great vitality in our economy as well as in our culture.
“Actually, he was asked on the Laura Ingraham show whether he supported self-deportation and he said yes,” Romney added. “And his spokesman also indicated, said that the speaker supports self-deportation, the concept of self-deportation. And so, unfortunately for him, these are things he’s already spoken out about and he’s spoken out about them in favor.
“I recognize that its very tempting to come out to an audience like this and pander to the audience and say what you hope the audience will want to hear,” Romney said, “but, frankly, I think that’s unbecoming of a presidential candidate, and I think that was a mistake on his part.”
Ramos also asked Romney flat out, “How much money do you have?”
Romney responded: “Actually I disclosed a financial disclosure statement all of my assets are known and I think the estimate in there was a pretty wide range it’s been widely reported and my net worth is within that number. It’s between 150 and 200-and-some-odd million dollars.”
Ramos later pressed Romney on a confrontation he had two weeks ago with Lucy Allain, a student from Peru who has a 4.0 GPA but no path to citizenship. Romney said that if elected president, he would veto the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for some children of undocumented immigrants who join the military or attend college here.
“I’m not punishing her,” Romney said.
At an event earlier this month in New Hampshire, Romney touted his Mexican roots, noting that his father lived there until he was five or six years old. According to Ramos, this would make Romney a Mexican-American, so does Romney consider himself to be one?
“I don’t people would think I was being honest with them if I said I was Mexican-American,” said Romney, admitting that he would “love to be able to convince people of that, particularly in a Florida primary.”
According to a new poll conducted by Latino Decisions for ABC News and Univision, if the general election were held today Romney would only have 25 percent support from Hispanics nationwide, compared to 67 percent for President Obama. With an estimated 12.2 million Latinos set to vote later this year, according to projections, that would likely be enough to hand Obama another term in the White House.
“Just wait,” Romney quipped. “We’ll get that quote out where you say I’m Mexican-American and I’ll do a lot better.”
In Florida, where about one in 10 likely Republican primary voters are Latino, Romney has a large, 26-point lead over Gingrich, 49 percent to 23 percent among Latino Republicans. Among all Florida Latinos, the margin is 35 to 20 in favor of Romney, with 21 percent undecided. The former Massachusetts governor has not been able to secure the endorsements of the state’s popular Cuban-American U.S. senator, Marco Rubio, or the state’s former governor, Jeb Bush, but he has earned the support of three key Cuban-American lawmakers here, a fact that has likely helped him to gain a healthy advantage among that group.