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President Obama and Romney Vie for Hispanic Vote in Florida, Talk Immigration

September 20, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to the campaign trail, where both the president and Mitt Romney are being asked to defend their positions on how to handle the millions of people in the country illegally.

The focus was on Hispanic voters in battleground Florida, where the immigration issue took center stage. President Obama was in Miami at a Spanish-language town hall sponsored by Univision and Facebook.

There, he was asked about his failure to keep a 2008 pledge of comprehensive immigration reform within his first year.

JORGE RAMOS, Univision News: A promise is a promise. And, with all due respect, you didn’t keep that promise.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, here’s what I would say, Jorge, is that — and we have had this conversation before.

There’s the thinking that the president is somebody who is all-powerful and can get everything done. In our branch of government — in our system of government, I am the head of the executive branch. I’m not the head of the legislature. I’m not the head of the judiciary.

We have to have cooperation from all these sources in order to get something done. And so I am happy to take responsibility for the fact that we didn’t get it done, but I didn’t make a promise that I would get everything done 100 percent when I was elected as president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Claiming congressional Republicans walked away from an immigration overhaul, Mr. Obama used his administration’s support of the DREAM Act to aid immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to draw a distinction.

BARACK OBAMA: And that stands in contrast with the other candidate, who has said he would veto the DREAM Act, that he is uncertain about what his plan for immigration reform would be, and who considers the Arizona law a model for the nation, and has suggested that the main solution for immigration is self-deportations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mitt Romney spoke to the same forum last night. When asked for his take on the DREAM Act, he offered few specifics.

MITT ROMNEY (R): For those that are — that are already here and that are undocumented, that were brought in here by their parents and therefore are illegal aliens in this country, my view is that we should put in place a permanent solution.

JUDY WOODRUFF: During the Republican primaries early this year, Romney was firm he wouldn’t sign the DREAM Act if elected, and outlined his own plan to deal with others here illegally.

MITT ROMNEY: The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide that they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here, because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But he offered a softer tone last night.

WOMAN: Are you going to deport them or not? I’m not that clear.


MITT ROMNEY: I think — I have some friends, apparently.


MITT ROMNEY: Jorge, I think I just answered the last part of your question, which is I said that I’m not in favor of a…


MITT ROMNEY: … deportation, mass deportation effort, rounding up 12 million people and taking them out of the country. I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Facing criticism he’d written off half the population based on remarks he made at a private fundraising dinner, Romney defended his views.

MITT ROMNEY: My campaign is about the 100 percent in America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Romney continued his swing through Florida today, with an event in Sarasota.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-Fla.: Medicare is going broke. That’s not politics. It’s math.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And this morning, his campaign began airing ads in both English and Spanish in the Sunshine State, just one example of how each campaign is expected to spend an unprecedented amount of money leading up to Nov. 6.