Election 2012: Candidates Turn Attention to Immigration
Romney, Obama address Latinos in Florida
Last week, presidential candidates Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama were in Orlando, Florida, to talk to Latinos about their stances on immigration. The candidates spoke at the 29th NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) conference, which was held at Walt Disney World.
The Hispanic population in the United States grew to 50 million in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This makes the Hispanic vote an important demographic for any candidate seeking the presidency.
Romney Lays Out Immigration Policy
Romney addressed the conference on Thursday. More than 1,000 NALEO members crowded the Fantasia Ballroom to hear Romney speak about issues that directly affect Hispanic voters across the country.
Some of Romney's proposals were well received, such as his focus on improving the economy.
"We know our businesses can't succeed, grow, and hire more workers without a more competitive tax code," declared Romney. "That's why I will lower our corporate tax rate, and reduce individual marginal rates by 20 percent, across the board."
But the primary focus of his speech was immigration and his differences on the issue with President Obama.
On June 15, the President announced an executive action that would allow illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and pose no security threat to remain in the country and work without fear of deportation.
Romney criticized this action as a desperate attempt to win the Hispanic vote in November.
"Last week, the President finally offered a temporary measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election," Romney said. "After three and half years of putting every issue from loan guarantees for his donors to Cash For Clunkers before immigration, now the President has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on Day One."
Despite Romney's criticism, Obama's announcement put pressure on the Republican nominee to address how he would address immigration reform. He used his NALEO speech to outline his plan.
Romney's immigration proposal calls for a streamlined work visa system, permanent residency for highly skilled college graduates and members of the military, re-allocating Green Cards to family of citizens and legal permanent residents, fielding enough border patrol agents, completing a high-tech fence, and implementing an improved exit verification system.
"Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action," Romney said. "The answer is that I will put in place my own long term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure. As President, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure."
Obama Challenges Critics on Immigration Reform
President Obama addressed NALEO on Friday. His remarks followed speeches by Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the first Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.
Obama's speech touched on numerous topics, such as building a stronger middle class. He also emphasized policies that he said have helped small businesses owned by Latinos, as well as his health care reform law that requires coverage for the uninsured.
But like Romney, the President's focus was on immigration.
"We all have different backgrounds," the President said. "We all have different political beliefs. The Latino community is not monolithic; the African American community is not all of one mind. This is a big country. And sometimes in tough times, in a country this big and busy, especially during a political year, those differences are cast in a spotlight."
Obama also defended his commitment to Hispanics by challenging Congress to pass the DREAM Act or any long-term immigration reform.
"My door has been open for three and a half years. They know where to find me," said Obama. "I've said time and again: Send me the DREAM Act; I will sign it right away."
The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was introduced in the Senate in 2001. One of the goals of the act was to allow illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors (under the age of 16), who graduated from an American high school or served in the military, and who lived in the U.S. for at least five straight years the right to apply for permanent residency status. But since its introduction, the DREAM Act has gone through numerous changes and has not made it out of Congress.
President Obama's decision to halt deportation proceedings for young immigrants brought to the United States as children was made because the DREAM Act has stalled in Congress. It has also attracted strong support for the President from the Hispanic community.
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