In Hunt for Latino Votes, Romney Softens Some Positions

Romney downplays some of his hard-line immigration stances in Latino states.

ByABC News
March 19, 2012, 6:16 PM

March 20, 2012 -- intro: Mitt Romney won a landslide victory over Rick Santorum in Puerto Rico last weekend and Santorum is not taking his 75-point defeat lightly.

Santorum, who spent two full days campaigning in the Caribbean island, congratulated Romney on his victory in a press release late Sunday night, but in the same breath accused the former governor of pandering to Puerto Rico's Latino voters by switching his position on making English the official language of every U.S. state.

"Their decision to put political expedience and political deception ahead of previously held policy positions further erodes their candidate's credibility and trust," Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said of the Romney campaign in the statement. "We all know Mitt Romney will do and say anything to get votes, and this is just another example of that."

But just how much of a conservative two-step did Romney dance while courting Puerto Ricans? Here's a look at some of the positions Romney softened, and those he stood by while attempting to woo Latino voters.

Matthew Jaffe, who is covering the 2012 campaign for ABC News and Univision, contributed to this report

quicklist: 1title:English as the Official Languagetext: After Santorum was skewered for saying Puerto Rico would have to make English their official language in order to become a state, Romney toned down his own position on the issue while campaigning in Puerto Rico last week.

"I don't have preconditions that I would impose," Romney said shortly after touching down on the Island Friday. "English has been an official language of Puerto Rico for 100 years and I think selecting the words of your governor, Spanish is the language of Puerto Rico's heritage, English is the language of opportunity."

Both languages are currently considered "official" in the island territory and Romney encouraged young people to "learn both." While he emphasized the importance of learning English, he did not say it should be the sole official language.

But that's not what he said during debates in January.

"I believe English should be the official language of the United States," Romney said on the debate stage.

The U.S. currently does not have an "official" language. If English was adopted as the "official" language, no government documents could be printed or written in any language besides English. Many federal documents are currently printed in both Spanish and English.

At another January debate, Romney noted that "English is the language of this nation" and touted his efforts as the governor of Massachusetts to get rid of bilingual education in favor of English emersion programs.

"People need to learn English to be successful to get great jobs," Romney said at the NBC Debate. "We don't want to have people to be limited in their ability to achieve the American Dream because they don't speak English."

A Romney spokeswoman disputed that Romney's position had changed, arguing that even though Romney supports making English the official language of the U.S., that would have no bearing on Puerto Rico becoming a state. "These positions are not at odds," said campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul in an email. "What the federal government does regarding the official language is separate from what states do."

quicklist: 2title: The Dream Acttext: Romney has been firm in his opposition to the Dream Act, which would give undocumented minors a path to legal residency if they attend college or join the military.

While campaigning in Iowa Romney explicitly said he would veto the Dream Act if elected president. As governor of Massachusetts he vetoed the state version of the bill which would have provided in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

"The answer is yes," Romney said of whether he would veto the legislation at the federal level.

Romney later added that giving "special benefits" to "people who come here illegally" was "contrary to the idea of the nation of law."Romney would, however, support giving legal status to undocumented immigrants who serve in the military.

"I am delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents in this country," he said while campaigning in Iowa. "Those who serve in our military and fulfill those requirements I respect and acknowledge that path."

Romney has more recently focused on this portion of the Dream Act that he does support.

"I wouldn't sign the Dream Act as it currently exists, but I would sign the Dream Act if it were focused on military service," Romney said during a debate in Florida, where 22 percent of the state's population is Hispanic.

A Latino Decisions poll conducted for Univision showed that 84 percent of Latinos nationwide support the Dream Act.

quicklist: 3title: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayortext: While Romney softened his firm opposition to the Dream Act while talking to Latino voters, he stood firm on his condemnation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents are from Puerto Rico.

While campaigning in Puerto Rico last week, Romney said he would support a Puerto Rican Supreme Court justice, just not one whose "philosophy is quite different than my own."

He also dubbed Sotomayor "an activist, a liberal jurist."

The former governor launched a campaign ad against Santorum, criticizing the former Pennsylvania senator for voting to appoint Sotomayor to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998, a post that put her on the fast track to the Supreme Court, the ad claims.

Romney has never been a Sotomayor fan. During her bitter confirmation process in 2009 Romney said her nomination to the Supreme Court was "troubling."

"There are some things she said that are troubling for those of us who believe that the job of a justice is to follow the law and the Constitution, not to create law," Romney said in 2009, according to CNN.

quicklist: 4title: Self-Deportation of Undocumented Immigrantstext: Romney has stood firm on his opposition to amnesty for undocumented immigrants, but his views on deporting the millions of illegal immigrants who are already in America took a new twist during this campaign cycle.

At a Florida debate in January, Romney said he supports "self-deportation," in which conditions would become so unbearable for undocumented immigrants that they would chose to leave the country.

"The answer is self-deportation," Romney said at an NBC debate. "People decide that they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here."

Under Romney's plan, legal immigrants would have a card proving they were eligible to work in the United States. Without a card, Romney said people would not be able to find work.

"If people don't get work here, they're going to self-deport to a place they can get work," he concluded.

But during his 2008 bid for the presidency, Romney said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country for a "set period" while applying for legal residency. If that is not granted within the allotted amount of time, he said they should return home.

"Those 12 million who've come here illegally should be given the opportunity to sign up to stay here, but they should not be given any advantage in becoming a permanent resident or citizen by virtue of simply coming here illegally," Romney told with NBC's Tim Russert during the 2008 campaign.

"For the great majority, they'll be going home," Romney added, stopping short of saying those unapproved immigrants would be deported.