ORLANDO, FL -- Speaking to a crowd of hundreds at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference here, Mitt Romney criticized President Obama for putting immigration reform on the backburner and for taking the Latino vote "for granted."
Obama addresses the conference tomorrow.
"For two years, this president had huge majorities in the House and Senate -- he was free to pursue any policy he pleased," Romney said. "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."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday.
What Romney didn't say is that a Republican filibuster, in late 2010, stopped Democratic efforts to pass a DREAM Act -- previously supported by some GOP senators -- granting a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrants pursuing a college degree or serving in the U.S. military. The measure received 55 Senate votes, short of the 60 needed to clear the filibuster.
Also left unsaid is that, due to congressional opposition, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been unable to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.
In his remarks today, Romney also argued that Obama is taking the Latino vote for granted. (In the May NBC/WSJ/Telemundo oversample of Latino voters, Obama led Romney among this demographic, 61%-27%.)
"Tomorrow, President Obama will speak here. Of course, that's the first time he's spoken here since his last campaign. 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."
Romney added, "I believe he's taking your vote for granted."
Furthermore, the former Massachusetts governor added more details to his immigration plans, saying that he would work to reallocate green cards to ensure that spouses and children of legal permanent residents get to stay with their families, and that he would grant green cards to those who get advanced degrees in the U.S.
"We can find common ground here, and we must," Romney said. "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.
This tone was a striking departure from the rhetoric that Romney has used in the Republican primaries -- in both 2007-2008 and 2011-2012.
Indeed, the issue was a clear way for the former Massachusetts governor to prove his conservative credentials. And it was a weapon he used -- often with success -- against John McCain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich, all of whom had supported some liberal policies toward illegal immigrants.
For instance, before the New Hampshire primary in Jan. 2008, Romney's campaign blasted McCain on immigration. "McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently -- even voted to allow illegals to collect Social Security," went one Romney TV ad. "And Mitt Romney?... He opposes amnesty for illegals."