(Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
In his address to Latino leaders in Florida on Friday, President Barack Obama blasted the Republican Party for blocking the DREAM Act, and highlighted GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's earlier statement that he would veto the measure.
"We should've passed the DREAM Act a long time ago," Obama said at a conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) in Orlando Friday. "It was written by members of both parties. When it came up for a vote a year and a half ago, Republicans in Congress blocked it."
"The bill hadn't changed. The need hadn't changed. The only thing that had changed was politics," the president added, charging that Congress "refuses to do anything on immigration." But he promised to "take action where I can," saying it was long past time "we gave them a sense of hope."
Obama recently announced that his administration intends to implement sweeping federal changes to U.S. immigration law that will allow many young people living in the country without proper documentation to gain temporary legalized status through employment. "Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people," he said on June 15.
Romney responded to Obama's immigration announcement the same day, saying the status of young people who come to the United States "through no fault of their own is an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis so they know what their future would be in this country."
Obama told NALEO, "Your speaker from yesterday has a different vision," referring to Romney. "He has promised to veto the DREAM Act, and we should take him at his word."
Romney spoke at the conference Thursday, promising that as president, "I'd reallocate green cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof. And we will exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents." He said other forms of bureaucratic red tape that keep families from being together would also be removed. "And if you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here. So I'd staple a green card to the diploma of someone who gets an advanced degree in America."
The Obama campaign also attacked Romney through a video released Friday morning, criticizing the GOP candidate for not clarifying if he would reverse the policy in place. The video shows Romney's reluctance to answer questions on the issue.
During the Republican primaries, Romney took a tough stand against the DREAM Act, which would allow young illegal immigrants to earn permanent resident status by pursuing a college education or the military. However, the immigration issue is now tricky for the GOP candidate, who needs the support of Hispanic voters to defeat Obama but cannot disappoint conservative voters either.
In response to the Obama camp's video, the Romney campaign also released one, highlighting Obama's failure to keep his promises to Latinos. The video points out that the president last spoke at the NALEO conference as a presidential candidate in 2008. "Four long years for America. Can we afford four more?" it asks.