Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney promised Thursday before a Latino forum his own immigration plan to replace the provisional measure announced last week by President Barack Obama.
Speaking in Orlando to the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, or NALEO, Romney accused Obama of political opportunism when he suspended the deportation of certain undocumented students.
"Some people have asked if I will let stand the president's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure," the former Massachusetts governor said.
Obama's order will benefit at least 800,000 undocumented students who arrived in the United States when they were minors, and who will be able to obtain a renewable temporary work permit valid for two years. The measure, however, does not offer a path to legalization.
Romney made his announcement to NALEO one day before Obama will speak to the same association, while Republicans and Democrats actively court the slightly more than 12.2 million Hispanics expected to go to the polls on Nov. 6.
Romney kicked off his speech with his known talking points denouncing Obama's economic record, recalling that the unemployment rate among Hispanics stands at around 11 percent, three percentage points above the national average, and that 2 million more Hispanics have joined the ranks of the poor since 2009.
Obama waited 3 1/2 years to offer this immigration relief because, for electoral reasons, he felt "an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on Day One," the Republican said.
"As president, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure," Romney vowed. "I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner. We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it."
This is the first time that Romney has presented details of a plan for immigration reform, one that includes strengthening border security and the extension of visas for foreigners with needed skills and for workers in the fields of agriculture, tourism and services.
His plan would permit the legalization of undocumented students who serve in the military.
In any case, much of his plan was already part of the reform that was blocked in Congress in 2007 for lack of consensus.
The Obama campaign team recalled that during the GOP primaries, Romney promised to veto the DREAM Act for the legalization of undocumented students if Congress should approve that legislation.
Other pro-reform groups said that Romney also supported the "self-deportation" of the undocumented and believed that Arizona's harsh SB 1070 immigration law should serve as a model for the rest of the country.
A recent NBC/Telemundo/Wall Street Journal poll showed Obama leading Romney among Latinos by 61 percent to 27 percent. EFE