GOP Official: Romney 'Still Deciding' on Immigration Stance

An attempt to highlight Latino voter outeach is stepped on by RNC official.

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The national Republican Party's effort to highlight their Hispanic outreach operation was derailed Tuesday when a top official said she doesn't know what presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's position on immigration is.

Bettina Inclan, the director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee, offered the statement during a briefing with reporters when responding to a question about how she would motivate Latino voters to support Republicans given Romney's conservative stance on the hot-button issue.

"As a candidate, to my understanding, he's still deciding what his position on immigration is, so I can't talk about what his proposal is going to be, because I don't know," she said. "He's talked about different issues and what we saw in the Republican primary is that there is a very diverse opinion on how to deal with immigration. I can't talk about something that I don't know what the position is."

[Read: Obama campaign seeks middle ground on gay marriage.]

Romney has struggled with the image of a flip-flopper throughout his presidential run, having taken more conservative positions or flat out reversing his stance on a variety of issues since his time as governor of Massachusetts, a liberal state. His campaign quickly pushed back against the comment, arguing Inclan "misspoke."

After the briefing, Inclan posted a tweet in an attempt to walk back the damage.

"I misspoke, Romney's position on immigration is clear," she wrote on Twitter, including a web link to Romney's campaign website immigration issue page.

During the primary campaign, Romney effectively used immigration as an area to plant himself firmly to the right of his opponents. He has pledged to veto the DREAM Act, a measure that would create a path for citizenship for children of illegal immigrants that complete a four-year college degree or join the military. He also has said all immigrants here illegally should return to their home country before they become eligible to obtain citizenship and that an effective method for achieving this would be to create an environment in the United States where they choose to "self-deport."

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Romney's website highlights his support of attracting the "best and the brightest" to America, as well as stopping all illegal immigration by building a high-tech, secure fence on the southern border while also declaring he opposes "amnesty."

Kirsten Kukowski, an RNC spokeswoman present at the briefing, tried to clarify the RNC's role and downplay Inclan's remarks.

"To be fair everyone, we just started transitioning with Gov. Romney's campaign a couple weeks ago. So let's take it back a step here and understand that the RNC's lane in this campaign is to do voter outreach and get out the vote efforts, and that's what we're going to do and that's what these people were hired to do," she said. "Mitt Romney is going to, I am sure, is going to talk an awful lot about jobs and the economy, how they affect Hispanics and his immigration policy."

[See political cartoons on immigration.]

Inclan also emphasized that the top issue for all voters is the economy and jobs.

"People continue to pretend the only thing Hispanics care about is immigration," she said. "While immigration is an important issue, we are American citizens. So to assume that the only thing we care about is immigration is false. We are American citizens that have been impacted by this economy, who have a high unemployment rate, who are constantly being hurt on so many different issues and to assume the only thing we care about is immigration is almost insulting."

Traditionally Hispanic voters have supported Democratic candidates in past elections. President Obama carried the Latino vote by a double-digit margin in 2008.

  • Read: Why Hispanic voters matter in 2012
  • See a slideshow of cities with the largest Latino populations
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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.