He did not say what should happen to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, nor did he mention the Dream Act, the stalled legislation he previously vowed to veto that would legalize many young people brought to the country as children.
Instead, Romney told about 1,000 attendees at the the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials meeting at Disney World that President Obama had not fulfilled his promises for Hispanics. Obama is scheduled to address the group on Friday — the first time he has attended the NALEO annual gathering, as Romney pointed out, since 2008.
“He may admit that he has not kept every promise, and he’ll probably say that even though you aren’t better off than you were four years ago, things could be worse,” Romney said. “He will imply that you don’t really have an alternative. I believe he’s taking your vote for granted. I come here today with a very simple message: You do have an alternative.”
The back-to-back appearances here underscore the growing importance of Hispanic voters, particularly in battleground states such as Colorado, Nevada and Virginia that are vital to the president’s reelection strategy. Polls show that among Latino adults, Obama holds a lead of 68 to Romney’s 30, according to Washington Post-ABC News surveys — but Republican strategists think that increasing Romney’s share to 40 percent could be enough to win the election.
In 2008, Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared with 31 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Immigration has emerged in recent weeks as a flash point in the presidential race, with Obama and Romney staking out sharply different positions.
Obama heightened the pressure on Romney last week with his administration’s move to halt the deportations of hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants who might have been eligible for help under the Dream Act. The issue will return to the fore next week, when the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Obama administration’s challenge to Arizona’s tough anti-
illegal-immigration law, which Romney and many Republicans supported.
In his speech Thursday, Romney ridiculed the president’s action on deportations, which grants “deferred action” to certain law-abiding immigrants younger than 30 who came to the United States as children. He said Obama, despite having Democratic majorities in Congress for two years, “failed to act until facing a tough reelection and trying to secure your vote.”