The presumptive nominee emphasized the importance of curbing illegal immigration by making the legal process more attractive, in part by establishing employment verification.
"I'm going to address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner," Romney told hundreds of activists at the annual conference at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. "We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it."
The crowd was polite and some of proposals received a smattering of applause, but the reception was well short of enthusiastic. Romney drew a contrast between his approach and Obama's and charged that Obama made a calloused election-year calculation to provide a short-term fix to the problem of children of illegal immigrants being deported to countries they have never lived in after assimilating culturally in the United States.
"Despite his promises, President Obama has failed to address immigration reform," Romney said. "For two years, this president had huge majorities in the House and Senate. He was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. Instead, he failed to act until facing a tough re-election and trying to secure your vote. "¦ I believe he's taking your vote for granted."
He also said, "Our immigration system should help promote strong families, not keep them apart. Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof. But today, too many families are caught in a broken system that costs them time and money and entangles them in excessive red tape. For those seeking to come to America the right way, that kind of bureaucratic nightmare has to end. And we can do this with just a few common-sense reforms."
The Obama campaign responded by zeroing in on comments Romney made during the primary campaign, when he said he would veto the DREAM Act if it passed Congress on his watch. The bill provides a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, a broader expansion of immigrants' rights than those contained in Obama's executive order or Romney's new proposals.
"Today, Mitt Romney told the largest national gathering of Hispanic elected officials, "˜When I make a promise to you- I will keep it.' But in front of an audience of Republican primary voters, he called the DREAM Act a "˜handout' and promised to veto it. Now, after seven days of refusing to say whether or not he'd repeal the Obama administration's immigration action that prevents young people who were brought here through no fault of their own as children from being deported, we should take him at his word that he will veto the DREAM Act as president," said Gabriela Domenzian, the campaign's director of Hispanic press.