Mitt Romney softens visa stance to win crucial Latino voters

Republican changes policy on eve of first televised debate with President

Denver

Desperate to find anything that might change the increasingly unfriendly contours of the US presidential race, Mitt Romney changed tack on immigration policy yesterday, vowing not to revoke special visas authorised by President Barack Obama for young undocumented people brought into the country illegally by their parents.

Mr Romney signalled the shift in an interview with a newspaper in Denver where he and Mr Obama will clash tonight in the first of three presidential debates. The encounter, where the stakes will be especially high for the Republican challenger, is set to focus on domestic issues including immigration as well as the economy and debt.

In a blow to the Republican camp, meanwhile, a judge in Pennsylvania delayed until after November the introduction of a contentious new voter ID law that could have potentially depressed turnout, particularly among likely Democrat supporters, by requiring voters to show government-issued identification, such as a driver's licence, at polling stations.

With his remarks on the special visas introduced under an order issued by Mr Obama this summer, Mr Romney is hoping to cut into the President's advantage among Latino voters that could be decisive in a number of battleground states with fast-growing Latino voter blocs, including Colorado. Hitherto, he has been evasive on the issue, saying only that under a Romney administration it would be superseded by broader reforms.

"People who have received the special visa that the President has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid," he told the Denver Post. "I'm not going to take something that they've purchased." During the primaries, Mr Romney took a hard stance, vowing to adopt policies that would encourage "self-deportation" of undocumented people.

Alienating many in the Latino community, Mr Romney also in one primary debate voiced support for Arizona's controversial law allowing police officers to demand proof from citizens that they are in the country legally. It was soon after that when a top aide caused uproar by suggesting that the candidate could later adjust his positions in the way a child shakes an Etch-A-Sketch toy to draw something new. Just such a moment occurred yesterday.

Stalking today's debate, meanwhile, are memories of the shooting rampage at a screening in July of the latest Batman film in Aurora, just a few miles from Denver University where the two men will meet. Also nearby is Columbine, where two teenagers killed 13 high school students in 1999. Even with this year's tragedy and a later massacre at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, gun control has barely featured in the race so far. But relatives of eight of the 12 who were killed in Aurora have demanded that the issue be raised. Making their pitch in a letter to the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, they said that to "ignore the problem of gun violence where two of the worst shootings in US history took place – Aurora and Columbine – would not only be noticeable by its absence but would slight the memories of our loved ones killed."

Additionally, a survivor of Aurora, Stephen Barton, who was shot in the neck, appears in a national television ad similarly demanding discussion of gun control bankrolled by a group of mayors headed by the New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. It shows him sitting in an empty auditorium arguing that 48,000 Americans will be killed by firearms in the next four years if gun control is not taken seriously by the winner of the race.

"When the candidates walk into that auditorium, I hope they'll be thinking about another theatre a few miles away where a dozen people were murdered, and dozens more were injured like Stephen," Mr Bloomberg said in a statement.

The Obama camp said it was underwhelmed by Mr Romney's promise on the special visas for undocumented youths, noting that he did not say if he would sustain or scrap the initiative.

"Romney's latest immigration pivot raises more questions than it answers," insisted Gabriella Domenzain, who speaks on Hispanic issues for the campaign. "Would he side with his extreme anti-immigration advisers and repeal this measure?"

Introduced by the Republican-controlled state legislature, the voter ID law in Pennsylvania is one of the strictest in the country and has drawn strident criticism not just from the Democratic Party but also from unions, civil rights groups and the American Association of Retired Persons. The controversy has helped Democrats galvanise supporters in the state which, according to current polls, seems likely to fall in Mr Obama's column.

Issuing his ruling, Judge Robert Simpson said that with five weeks until election day, he was concerned that many potential voters would not have enough time to acquire the documents they would need to vote.

TV duel: The hot issues

The economy Romney will say Obama's policies have not worked and unemployment is still too high.

Taxation Obama will argue that Romney's vision of cutting taxes for the rich has not helped America.

National debt Romney has one policy area in which he outscores the President in polls – that he could do a better job of cutting the deficit.

Health Obama will say his health reforms are bringing costs down and ensuring coverage for all. Romney will vow to repeal them.

The great debates: Winners and losers

Rarely do televised debates alone determine an election's result. But they can seal an impression of a candidate in voters' minds. Here are three of the most important.

Kennedy v Nixon

The 1960 debates between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon were the first of their kind. Those who listened on the radio to the first debate considered Nixon the winner. The many more who saw it on TV found the young Democrat more persuasive than his more experienced opponent, a two-term Vice-President. Without the debates, Kennedy might not have won the election.

Ford v Carter

The next debates were not until 1976, between Gerald Ford and his Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter. The second, dealing with foreign policy, was an example of a blunder that probably did change a race. Ford's claim that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration", was an especially glaring mistake, coming as it did from an incumbent President. Carter went on to a narrow win in November.

Bush v Kerry

The limited impact of debates was proved in 2004, when George W Bush faced a challenge by the Democrat John Kerry. President Bush had a small advantage in the polls, but Kerry performed strongly in all three debates. Bush won when it mattered most, in November, with 50.7 per cent of the popular vote against Kerry's 48.3 per cent.

Rupert Cornwell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'