The GOP primaries isolated a significant percentage of Latino voters with headstrong, punitive positions on immigration. Republican candidates competed on who could be tougher -and more irrational- in order to win the votes of those who resent the immigrant presence.

Now, with Mitt Romney virtually sure to win the nomination, it is time to recover part of the Hispanic vote. This vote, as George W. Bush showed, is vital for a Republican to win the White House. The issue, like everything that is improvised, is what the strategy should be to decrease the damage the primaries caused, address the internal conflict within the campaign on this issue and handle the candidate’s refusal to clear the confusion.

In principle, GOP Senator Marco Rubio, who backs Romney, is exploring a different version of the DREAM Act. The original bill provides a path to residency and citizenship for undocumented students who were brought into the country as minors and now want to attend college or serve in the Armed Forces.

Rubio’s proposal, until now, would give these students renewable immigrant visas without creating a special path to residency and citizenship. We are concerned about this leading to a new immigrant category for an indefinite period without tying it to an opportunity to obtain a green card. In practice, these students, who know no country other than the U.S., would remain as disenfranchised taxpayers.

Rubio said people must be realistic to achieve bipartisan agreement. We think the DREAM Act, besides being a national investment, is an act of justice that corrects an undeserved punishment for these students. Rubio’s proposal is not enough in this respect.

We are not the only ones who are unhappy with this proposal. Kris Kobach, author of Arizona’s SB 1070, claimed that Rubio’s idea is an amnesty. In his role as a Romney immigration advisor, he said he did not expect the candidate to accept Rubio’s proposal.

In summary, the intention to show a more reasonable stance toward immigrants is another example of the inflexibility of the Republican campaign. It would be useful if Romney said whether he is siding with Rubio or Kobach, but the candidate, known for flip-flopping positions, today prefers to be with God and the devil. That isn’t leadership.

The impression that remains is that Rubio is wasting time on what is a political maneuver to mend the damage made.

It is unfortunate that the GOP can’t overcome anti-immigrant extremism, because they could be a political option that competes for the Hispanic vote. However, they still can’t agree on whether students should be deported or those who risk their lives in the armed forces should be put into an indefinite immigrant category. Such alternatives!

Impremedia/La Opinión