In an interview with Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, a Hispanic radio personality, Obama said Latino voters’ choice in the election "will not be that difficult" because he's the only one who backs comprehensive immigration reform.
“So far, we haven’t seen any of the Republican candidates even support immigration reform,” Obama said.
In a reference to Romney, Obama says the GOP's "leading candidate" would even veto the DREAM Act, which gives a pathway to citizenship to children here illegally if they attend college or join the military.
Romney has said he would support modified legislation that applies only to young people who join the military.
Despite Obama's support for reform, critics on different sides of the debate over what to do about undocumented immigrants say he has made little progress on immigration. In the interview, Obama blamed congressional Republicans – as he often has -- saying they are unwilling to work on the issue.
The Republican National Committee fired off a response to the president’s comments.
"It is interesting that Obama is so certain he will be re-elected, when his approval rating with Latinos has dropped by 30 percent since April 2009,” said RNC spokesperson, Alexandra Franceschi.
“The president hasn’t made any friends in the Latino community after failing to live up to his promise to address immigration in his first year. Latinos across the country are tired of his broken promises and empty rhetoric, and in November they will elect a candidate that can keep his word."
To be sure, all the GOP primary contenders have expressed support for a hard line approach to immigration. But Romney, the front-runner, has made political moves that have drawn the particular ire of immigration advocates, such as calling the Dream Act a "handout" and touting the endorsement of his candidacy by some of the country's most controversial immigration hawks.
The Democratic National Committee, for its part, released a video called: “Mitt Romney: The GOP’s Most Extreme Candidate” that cast the former Massachusetts governor as uncaring about Latino voters because of views that are counter to their sentiments on key issues.
The video features clips of Romney in the Wednesday GOP debate in Arizona, whose primary is Tuesday.
In the debate, Romney praised Arizona’s immigration law, which essentially criminalizes being in the United States unlawfully.
Courts have blocked parts of the law, including a provision requiring police to check the immigration status of people they encounter during their work who they suspect may be in the country illegally. The controversial law, which the U.S. Department of Justice is challenging with a lawsuit, led to the drafting of similar laws in other states.
Romney called the Arizona law a model for the nation.
“Perhaps the most important and underappreciated take away from last night's debate?” the DNC asked in a statement that accompanied the video. “Mitt Romney embracing fully and wholeheartedly the most controversial, divisive and extreme anti-immigrant law in the U.S.”
“Mitt Romney's the most extreme GOP candidate on the issue and if he becomes the nominee will have already ceded the Hispanic vote in this election,” the statement said. “He's called the Dream Act a handout he'd veto, said that all undocumented workers should be deported and last night called Arizona's controversial immigration law a model for the nation.”
The video said it was not linked to any particular candidate; nonetheless, Obama campaign officials forwarded the DNC press release and link to the video to the media.
Romney has said he supports immigration, so long as it is legal.
Meanwhile, the Texas Democratic Party joined in, sending a statement of their own entitled: “Romney, a Nightmare for Texas Immigrant Students.”
“If Latinos weren’t nervous enough about Mitt Romney yet, last night’s debate in Arizona should’ve made them terrified,” said TDP spokesperson Rebecca Acuña in the statement. “Romney continues to tout self-deportation as sound immigration policy and believes Arizona’s draconian immigration law is a model for the nation.”
This story contains material from The Associated Press.
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