June 22, 2012 at 6:25 am
Mitt Romney made his case before the influential National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) conference on Thursday, pledging to address illegal immigration “in a civil but resolute manner.”
Romney, who took a hard stance on immigration policy during the primary season, sought to calibrate that message in Orlando as he made his case before Hispanic voters– the fastest growing segment of the U.S. electorate and a key voting bloc in Florida.
“If you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here — so we will staple a green card to your diploma. We want the best and brightest to enrich the nation through the jobs and technologies they will help create,” Romney said.
It’s a message he mixed with reminders about his conservative base. “It is critical that we re-double our efforts to secure the borders,” Romney said.
Romney’s campaign has struggled over the last week to come up with a response to President Obama’s executive order that will suspend deportations of those who came here as children of illegal immigrants and allow them to seek work permits. Polls suggest strong Hispanic support for the measure.
During his 17-minute speech, Romney said the president has done “nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system.”
“Instead he failed to act until facing a tough re-election,” Romney said of Obama, who will address the group today.
Romney vowed to push for a permanent immigration fix, though he offered few details. He said under his plan there would be a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who serve in the military, and that immigrants with families would be first in line to get green cards
“Our immigration system should help promote strong families, not keep them apart,” he said. “Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof. ”
Romney also made clear that his singular focus will remain on the economy. “Is the America of 11 percent Hispanic unemployment the America of our dreams? ” he asked. “We can do better.”
The Hispanic audience gave Romney a polite welcome but not a single ovation for his remarks.
“We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it,” Romney told the conference.