Mitt Romney told an influential Latino group on Thursday that he would overhaul the green card system for immigrants with families and refrain from imposing immigration caps on their spouses and minor children in order to keep their families together.
Romney told the audience that he would address the illegal immigration problem “in a civil but resolute manner.”
The Republican presidential hopeful made the pitch to the influential National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in Orlando, Fla., asking them to join him in getting America back on track.
“While we may not agree on everything, we share the same goal, the same vision, and the same belief in American greatness that draws so many to our shores,” Romney said.
Romney also highlighted the Obama administration’s failures and laying out his own sketch as to how to jump-start the economy.
President Barack Obama will speak to the same group on Friday. NALEO is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization that facilitates the full participation of Latinos in the American political process, from citizenship to public service, according to its website.
In his speech, Romney chided Obama for waiting so long to take action on immigration, and charged that the timing of the announcement to give amnesty to children of illegal immigrants was clearly political.
He said he would put in place his own “long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure” and “prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier,” adding that he would address the illegal immigration problem “in a civil but resolute manner.”
Romney said it was critical to secure the borders by both preventing illegal border crossings and making it harder to illegally overstay a visa. He called for the completion of a high-tech fence, and the implementation of an improved exit verification system.
“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.
"But, today, too many families are caught in a broken system that costs them time and money and entangles them in 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.
“As president, I will reallocate green cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof. We will exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents. And we will eliminate other forms of bureaucratic red tape that keep families from being together.”
He pointed out the economic benefits that immigration reform would bring. “Immigrants with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at a high rate," Romney said. "Immigrants founded or co-founded nearly half of our 50 top venture-backed companies. They are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business.
"That kind of risk taking is something we need more than ever because new business starts are now at a 30-year low.
"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 also said he would favor a path to legal status for anyone “who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service. Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America.”
He said there is common ground to be found. “We owe it to ourselves as Americans to ensure that our country remains a land of opportunity — both for those who were born here and for those who share our values, respect our laws, and want to come to our shores.”
The former Massachusetts governor opened his speech by emphasizing the strong bonds of Americans. “I will govern from the principle that while this is a land of extraordinary diversity, there is much more that unites us than divides us. Though each of us walks a different path in life, we are united by one great, overwhelming passion: We love America. We believe in America. We are one nation, under God,” he said, adding, “Today, we are united not only by our faith in America. We are united also by our concern for America. This country we love is in peril. That is why I am running for president.”
Romney then laid out the arguments against re-electing Obama.
“Almost four years ago, Americans did something that was very much the sort of thing Americans like to do: We gave someone new a chance to lead; someone we hadn't known for very long, who didn't have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place,” he said.
“At the time, we didn't know what sort of a president he would make. It was a moment of crisis for our economy, and when Barack Obama came to office, America wished him well and hoped for the best. Three-and-a-half years later, over 23 million Americans are out of work, underemployed, or have just quit looking for work.
"At a time when we should be gaining momentum, we're losing it. Job growth has slowed and this week, we learned that the number of job openings has fallen again."
Romney pointed out that Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard by the economic recession, with Hispanic unemployment at 11 percent. He drew a contrast between Obama and President Ronald Reagan, who faced an economic crisis in his first term, with unemployment at 11 percent but delivered “a true recovery — economic growth and job creation were three times higher than in the Obama economy,” Romney said.
“Tomorrow, President Obama will speak here, for the first time since his last campaign,” Romney told the audience. “He may admit that he hasn't kept every promise. And he'll probably say that, even though you aren't better off today than you were four years ago, things could be worse. He'll imply that you really don't have an alternative. He's taking your vote for granted.”
He said the economy can be boosted by the expansion of trade with Latin America and noted that Obama has yet to complete a trade agreement with Latin America and has failed to penalize China for breaking trade rules.
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