Romney’s ‘Self-Deportation’ Solution at GOP Debate Shows a Candidate Out of Touch by Lili Gil for Fox News Latino

After a heated opening between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney over capitalism and Freddie Mac consulting at the NBC Florida debate, surprisingly the night’s most memorable moments took place when Latino matters surfaced.

Just in time to resonate with 22 percent of Floridians who are Latinos and the 1.2 million Cubans who reside in Florida, Fidel Castro’s fate of heaven or hell was the only moment that woke up this lifeless audience. Gingrich said: “I don’t think Fidel will meet his maker. I think he’s going to the other place.”

But by far the the most memorable and the oddest moment was Romney’s brilliant solution to immigration: self-deportation.

Immediately, a flood of live tweets from viewers, political insiders and Latino influencers jumped to criticize his confusing answer.

When asked about the process to send people home, Romney’s solution left the audience intrigued, speechless and confused. “The answer is self-deportation (with some remote laughter on the background) When they don’t have work or documents they will go back home…Ultimately we will then allow people to get back in line at home until the reach the front of the line,” Romney said.

Can Romney Get the Latino Votes He Needs?

The line? What line? One tweet from @AlxWindyCity said “hahaha…I’m, sure there is a line forming as we speak”  Also a sympathetic Rick Santorum was quick to describe how his parents and grandparents were able to “follow the process,” which was completely different from today’s bureaucratic and limited process to follow for those wishing to “get in the line.”

Is there a process for those who graciously self-deport so they can get into “the line” back at home? No, which highlights Romney’s ignorance on the issue. As a naturalized citizen who had to make sense of “the process,” it is disappointing to see GOP candidates so out-of-touch with the true complexities of the current immigration process. 

Ever wondered what the path to citizenship is? Let the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) answer the question for you: After a basic requirement of being over 18 years of age, the U.S. government requires you to be a green card holder for five years! So, how do you get a green card if you want to “get in the line?” Three or four clicks later and the USCIS website then takes you to a long list of green-card application forms that basically can be summarized as the following:  A. be the child of a U.S. citizen, B. marry a citizen, C. be a refuge and/or D. qualify for the limited and convoluted job, entrepreneur or investor options. 

Did you know that someone who comes into this country “legally” with a student visa has virtually no clear path or option to become “legal” after graduating from his college, masters or PhD? Note, these are not DREAMers (DREAMAct candidates), but “legal” immigrants who are stuck in limbo…

The issue is complex, and clearly Romney’s self-deportation strategy confirmed his lack of a strategy all together. And, while entertaining, immigration may not be the only winning card to get to the hearts of a diverse Latino population in Florida, which is dominated by Cubans in south Florida and Puerto Ricans in central Florida. 

Why does this matter anyway? Because in 2008, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, President Barack Obama won 57 percent of Florida’s Hispanic vote, while 42 percent went to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), making Florida the first of many more battlegrounds like Nevada, Colorado and Arizona where Latinos could represent the winning difference for the GOP in their race to the White House.

Lili Gil is an award-winning business and Hispanic market expert and business and political media contributor. She is also co-founder and managing partner of XL Alliance a business strategy and marketing firm dedicated to help business leaders and corporations navigate and enter emerging multicultural markets. Gil was recently selected by the World Economic Forum as one of only 190 Young Global Leaders identified across 65 countries for her leadership, community and business impact. You can follow Lili on twitter @liligil

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Newt Gingrich: A Smart Play to Win Over the Latino Vote?

AS Published by Fox News Latino

By Lili Gil, Media Contributor, Hispanic Market Expert, Cofounder XL Alliance

As I tuned in to write this opinion piece about the Republican National Security Debate, I was ready to jot down perspectives surrounding Afghanistan, terrorism, Israel and wars… While those were eloquently addressed by the candidates, my heart, attention and voter-gears shifted unexpectedly when Newt Gingrich set the stage on Immigration.  Unexpected and hopeful statements like: “I do not believe that citizens of the U.S. would take people that have been here for a quarter of a century, separate them from their families and expel them”, said by Gingrich, or practical comments like “I’ll staple a green card to the diploma of any immigrant who gets a masters degree” by Romney; gave me goose bumps as I watched closely a topic that has personally torn me as a naturalized citizen and voter who finds herself struggling between parties. While I share deeply the value system of a conservative mindset, the traditional draconian perspectives on immigration had kept me floating in the middle with no real political loyalties…until today…

A topic typically perceived by Latinos as the GOP’s Achilles’ heel became a shining moment for the party. To date, this was the very first debate that demonstrated a genuine acknowledgement and approach that supports the DREAMAct and emphasizes the importance of keeping families united. Could this be THE crucial moment that finally demystifies the party and opens doors for Latinos to listen closer and get engaged with the Republican Party?

The financial crisis, unemployment and leadership frustrations with the current administration serve as a perfect storm to gain momentum. As I mentioned after an earlier debate in October, The GOP has a Golden Opportunity to Win over the Latino Vote, and it seems someone, somewhere, has finally started paying attention to the fastest growing segment and largest minority group in the U.S. that could put them in the white house.  

As I mentioned in my previous OpEd, in 2008, Hispanics’ 2-to-1 support for Barack Obama’s presidential bid was credited with making the difference in four crucial swing states: Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Also, it is estimated that 21.5 million Latino citizen adults will be eligible to vote in November 2012, up from 19.5 million in 2008. According to 2010 census data, there are 118 existing congressional districts in which more than one-fifth of the population is Hispanic. That is up from just 28, according to 2000 census data, as applied to 110th Congress districts. Furthermore, 93 of those districts are in California, Texas, Florida, and New York, the four states with the most 2012 electoral votes.   Florida is a crucial swing state, alongside Colorado and Nevada, which have seen 41.2 percent and 81.9 percent growth in the Hispanic population, respectively, since 2000. The opportunity becomes even more evident given that only 1 in 3 Hispanic voters strongly approves of the President, suggesting his popularity among a constituency that were among his most ardent backers in 2008 is softening. In addition, 53 percent of Hispanic registered voters indicated that they are less enthusiastic about President Obama now than they were in 2008. 

You don’t need an economics or math degree to realize that the opportunity is real, sizable and could mean the difference for the Republican party in this election.

What were the hopeful shining moments of the debate, which could potentially win over the million of Latino voters that were possibly “floating in the middle” like me? Here are the highlights from a very different tone set primarily by former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

  • “We ought to have an H-1 visa that goes with every graduate degree in math, science or engineering, so that people stay here…Einstein came here as an immigrant”, Gingrich
  • “I think you’ve got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach… You’ve got to find some system, which includes a guest worker program…” Gingrich
  • “If you’ve been here for 25 years you have 3 children and 2 grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes, obeying the law and belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from the family”, Gingrich
  • Addressing a sticky point that lies within the DREAMAct, Gingrich was clear in supporting that undocumented children who serve in the military have a process to acquire citizenship. “I don’t see any reason to punish anyone who came at three years of age but who wants to serve the United States of America”, said Gingrich
  • “This is a party that loves legal immigration”, Romney
  • “I do not believe that the people of the U.S. would take people that have been here for a quarter of a century… separate them from their families and expel them”, Gingrich
  • “I don’t see how the party that says is the party of the family, is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here for a quarter of a century, and I am prepared to take the heat for saying ‘let’s be humane’ in enforcing the law, without giving them citizenship, but finding a way to create legality so they are not separated from their families”, Gingrich.

Great job and felicitaciones to el Señor Gingrich, who set the stage for a potential new wave of “LatiNewts” following! Your sound perspectives, compassion, and common-sense approach could mean the difference not only to secure your win as the Republican nominee, but also that of  an important (and very influential) community…which could ultimately result in winning the White House

Lili Gil is an award-winning business and Hispanic market expert and business and political media contributor. She is also co-founder and managing partner of XL Alliance a multicultural strategy and marketing firm dedicated to helping business leaders navigate and enter emerging markets. Gil was recently selected by the World Economic Forum as one of only 190 Young Global Leaders identified across 65 countries for her leadership, community and business impact. You can follow Lili on twitter @liligil