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Romney stresses support for immigration before Latino crowd


MIAMI -- At his first public appearance since aggressively defending himself as "pro-immigration" at last night's final Florida debate, Mitt Romney took to the podium again today to argue that he and the Republican party are firmly in favor of legal immigration.

"First of all, with regards to immigration. I like immigration. I like legal immigration. I think its important for America to recognize that immigration is an extraordinary source of vitality of our nation. That bringing people of different cultures here creates opportunity and growth for the entire economy," Romney said. "We are not anti-immigrant. We are not anti-immigration. We are the pro-immigration, pro-legality, pro-citizenship party."

Romney's speech today, at which he was introduce by in Spanish by his youngest son, touched on a wide variety of other issues important to the Hispanic community, including economic growth in Latin America, US Policy toward Cuba and whether or not Puerto Rico should become the 51st state.

"What's happening in Latin America, whether its Mexico or the Carribbean, through Central America, through South America is such extraordinary growth economically, not to mention demographically, that there is a huge economic, political and military opportunity and series of challenges and obligations here in this hemisphere," Romney said, promising to maintain closer ties to the region, often largely ignored in U.S. foreign policy.

Romney also continued his appeal to South Florida's Cuban-American community, saying that a Romney administration would support Cubans seeking freedom upon the death of Fidel Castro -- a remark which earned him a standing ovation.

"There is a time coming soon, where Cuba will be free. That's going to happen. We're going to have to get organized for it. We're going to have to recognize that people there want freedom, as people do all over the world, and America can't sit back," Romney said. "I will not only say something when Fidel Castro finally leaves this earth, I will do something. I will be behind the voices of freedom here an the voices of freedom there. We will help Cuba become free."

Romney also touched on the controversial question of whether or not Puerto Rico should become the 51st state. Two days ago at a Univision forum, Romney said he "would not argue one side or the other" of the issue, and that his choice "is to let [the people of Puerto Rico] make their own choice."

Today, he said he would support a Puerto Rican effort at earning statehood, if the people of Puerto Rico supported such a move in a referendum, scheduled for November.

""I'm looking forward to the time when the people of Puerto Rico make their decision about becoming a state," Romney said."I expect the people of Puerto Rico will decide like [Governor Luis Fortuno] feels, to become a state, and I can tell you that I will work with him that if that vote comes out in favor of statehood we will go through the process in Washington to provide statehood to Puerto Rico. "