Presidents do not get to dodge issues, and candidates for the nation's highest office should not get into that bad habit. Voters deserve a straight answer from Mitt Romney on whether he would continue President Barack Obama's new immigration policy or overturn it if he is elected. The Republican danced around the issue over the weekend, and he will have another opportunity to be more candid when he appears this week at a conference of Hispanic officials in Orlando.
Romney bobbed and weaved on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, failing three times to directly answer how he would deal with the Obama policy as president. The new policy Obama announced on Friday allows an estimated 800,000 younger illegal immigrants to remain in the United States legally if they meet certain conditions. They have to have arrived in this country before they turned 16 years old and be younger than 30 years old, graduate from high school or hold a GED, or have served in the military. They must have been here for five straight years and cannot have a criminal record.
The policy is clear, but Romney's position on whether he would embrace it as president is anything but. He said Obama's policy "would be overtaken by events'' because he would purse a long-term change in immigration policy that would be passed by Congress, but that is no guarantee. Romney also complained that Obama's decision was political, but it is no more political than his determination to avoid taking a position.
The reality is both Democrats and Republicans were feeling pressure to adopt a more sensible immigration policy in an election year when Hispanic citizens represent a key voting bloc. Democrats complained the president had not done enough, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has been exploring legislation that resembles Obama's policy change. The president acted because Congress remains deadlocked over immigration, unable to pass sweeping reforms to address the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country. Congress also has failed to pass the Dream Act, which would create a path to citizenship for younger illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military.
Whether you are living in the White House or campaigning to move in, there is nowhere to hide on high-profile issues. Obama discovered that on the issue of same-sex marriage. He said for months that his views were "evolving,'' but he finally was forced to clarify his position last month after Vice President Joe Biden said he supported same-sex marriage. The president was unable to keep equivocating and declared his own support.
Now Romney faces a similar moment. He has used harsh anti-immigrant language in the past, supported Arizona's immigration law that the Obama administration has challenged in court and opposed the Dream Act. He owes voters a straight answer on whether he would continue Obama's new policy or overturn it if he is elected president, and he will have the perfect opportunity this week in Orlando.