The campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney on Wednesday continued to snipe back and forth at each other about immigration reform a day after the issue came up in their second televised debate.
The question posed by Lorraine Osorio to Romney about how to resolve the presence of undocumented foreigners in the United States unleashed one of the tensest and longest exchanges of Tuesday night's encounter at Hofstra University.
That question once again heated things up on Wednesday and, in a conference call with reporters, Democratic Reps. Nydia Velazquez and Xavier Becerra chided Romney for being an extremist and reiterated their complaint about Republican obstructionism in Congress.
"Mitt Romney is the most extreme presidential candidate on immigration in modern history," said Velazquez, citing the Republican's idea of "self-deportation."
When asked why immigration reform was unable to be achieved when the Congress was under Democratic control for the first two years of Obama's presidency, Becerra replied: "Let's dispel this notion that the Democrats and the President did nothing. We (the House of Representatives) passed the DREAM Act in 2010, and the Senate passed the DREAM Act. But only because the Republicans insisted on using the filibuster did the DREAM Act not become law."
"With the Democratic majority, that law would have been the law of the land," the California lawmaker said.
In an email to Efe, Sharon J. Castillo, a consultant for the Romney campaign, said that it is Obama who is resorting to "fear tactics," and she accused him of "distorting" the remarks of the Republican candidate.
"If we're still talking about immigration reform today it's because of the lack of leadership of President Obama and an unfulfilled promise for Hispanics," she said.
On Tuesday night, Romney repeated his support for broadening the system of visas for foreigners with university diplomas in science and mathematics, halting illegal immigration because there are already 4 million people waiting for a visa and zero "amnesty" for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
With regard to undocumented students, Romney said that he supports legalizing their status by having them serve in the military and he repeated that Obama did not fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to present an immigration reform package.
Obama, who is leading Romney among Latinos who say they intend to vote, enumerated his achievements in the immigration area, including accelerating legal procedures for visas, strengthening border security and deporting immigrants with criminal records.
He also emphasized his Deferred Action initiative, which suspends for two years the deportation of "DREAMers," undocumented students whose immigration status would be legalized if Congress were to approve the DREAM Act.
After criticizing the measure as merely a stopgap, Romney said two weeks ago that he would honor Deferred Action for those who had already obtained it, and he added that before the measure expires in two years a permanent solution would be in place.
Erika Andiola, who took advantage of the Deferred Action program, was present at the debate and, in a telephone interview with Efe, she said she heard "nothing new because the two campaigns keep accusing each other."
"Yes, it offended me that Romney keeps calling us illegals, and that shows how disconnected he is from our situation. Obama has deported more than 1 million people, but at least he has given us this temporary measure while he's looking for something permanent," she said. EFE