Candidates hawk immigration reform record, plans as they seek Latino vote

The election season has been dominated by competing messages over who would better lead an economic recovery, and last week President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney offered up their recipes for immigration reform, which both candidates have framed as an important driver of entrepreneurship and job creation.

Obama and Romney participated separately in a forum in Florida hosted by Spanish language television network Univision. Both are courting Latino voters, who are expected to play a key role in the swing states of Colorado, Virginia, Nevada and Florida.

Romney said he would push for long-term solutions for immigration reform and added that he would support allowing immigrants who served in the military or who attended college in the United States to become permanent residents. He has opposed the Dream Act in the past.

“I will lead a program that gets us to a permanent solution, as opposed to what was done by the president, which with a few months before the election, he puts in place something which is temporary, which doesn’t solve this issue,” Romney said, referring to Obama’s June announcement that his administration would stop deporting some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children. “I will solve it on a permanent basis.”

Romney’s remarks followed those he made in June before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, when he called immigration reform an “economic necessity” because immigrants start companies, create jobs and drive innovation.

Obama has a commanding lead over Romney among Hispanic voters — 72 percent to 22 percent, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. He has emphasized the need to change immigration laws so immigrants can study in the United States and stay to start a business here, as opposed to abroad.

In the Univision forum, Obama said resistance from Republicans in Congress blocked his 2008 campaign promise to achieve comprehensive immigration reform during his first year in office.

“We have to have cooperation from all sources in order to get something done,” Obama said. “I did not promise I would get everything done 100 percent when I was elected. I did promise I would work hard every day to be sure everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from ... gets a fair shot at the American Dream. That’s a promise I’ve kept.”

Catherine Ho covers lobbying at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.



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