Debate’s Focus on Immigration Highlights Candidate Differences

BY Sarah Svoboda  October 19, 2012 at 5:37 PM EST

According to a recent Pew Hispanic Center report, a record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote this election year. As we inch closer to November 6, both President Obama and Governor Romney continue their fight to win over this significant block of voters, especially in swing states like Colorado, Nevada, Florida and Virginia. These voters share common cultural ties and language, but come from a range of origins.

While polls find the economy ranks consistently as the top issue for most Hispanics – as it does for most Americans – immigration is also of high importance to this community. It was a hot point of discussion at the presidential debate at Hofstra University Tuesday, when President Obama and Governor Romney squared-off on the topic for the first time this debate season.

On the question of deportation, Romney maintained, “We’re not going to round up 12 million undocumented illegals and take them out of this nation. Instead… let people make their own choice.”

President Obama cited his support of the DREAM Act, stating, “For young people who…understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers, then we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship, and that’s what I’ve done administratively.”

Watch each candidate’s full comments on immigration from the debate below:

While connecting with the Latino base has been a largely targeted effort from both campaigns this election, the underlying issue of getting Hispsanics out to the polls remains. That same Pew Hispanic study revealed that only 50 percent of eligible Latino voters cast ballots in the 2008 election.

And be sure to watch Ray Suarez’s report from Friday exploring how each of the campaigns has ramped up efforts to connect with this crucial constituency.