Obama Draws Distinctions With Romney On Immigration

BY Tiffany Mullon  June 22, 2012 at 4:14 PM EDT

ORLANDO, Fla. | President Obama took his turn before a conference of Latino officials Friday, leading off his remarks with a “gracias” and telling the crowd “it’s a pleasure to be here with so many friends” in Spanish.

He quickly drew a distinction between himself and Mitt Romney, who addressed the crowd Thursday. But the president did not mention his Republican opponent by name. “Yesterday your featured speaker came here and said that the election in November isn’t about two people; it’s not about being a Republican or Democrat or an independent; it is about the future of America.”

The president highlighted his decision last Friday to suspend deportations of some undocumented young people was the right thing to do, and that it was up to Congress to act.

He also emphasized the action was not a long term fix: “It’s not amnesty. It falls short of where we need to be, a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while offering some justice to these young people.”

Lamenting the political gridlock over the DREAM Act, which would implement similar measures and provide a path to citizenship, Obama put the blame squarely on Republicans. “My door has been open for three and a half years. They know where to find me. I’ve said time and again, send me the DREAM Act; I will sign it right away.”

He also made note of Romney’s opposition to the DREAM Act, although the president again only alluded to the likely Republican nominee. “Your speaker from yesterday has a different view. In his speech, he said that when he makes a promise to you, he’ll keep it. Well, he has promised to veto the DREAM Act. And we should take him at his word. I’m just saying.”

Mr. Obama referred to what he called inaction in Congress as “the same kind of stalemate on immigration reform that we’re seeing on a whole range of other economic issues.”

It was with that in mind that the President used much of the occasion to again press the message that this election about an economic choice. “How do we create more jobs? How do we create more opportunity? The question is, what vision are we going to stand up for?”

Focusing much of his remarks on efforts to expand the middle class, he stressed support of expanded Pell Grants to help more students attend college and urged more investment Hispanic owned businesses, in an effort to woo the bipartisan – albeit largely Democratic – audience.

He drew some of his largest applause telling the crowd, “after a century of trying, we finally passed reform that will make health care affordable and available for every American. That was the right thing to do.”

In the meantime, Mitt Romney offered his own take on the president’s economic record, releasing an infographic on his campaign website saying the Obama Administration has “brought hard times to Hispanics in America.”

Rubio Criticizes President for Playing Politics

Earlier in the day, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio opened his speech with a few words in Spanish before telling the crowd of more than 1,000 Latinos: “In both my head and my heart I felt today, personally, we are as close as we have ever been to a turning point in the debate about immigration.”

The Florida senator spoke at length about the human element of the immigration debate, asking, “Who would not do whatever it took to feed our children and provide them a better future?” At one point he told the story of a disabled elderly immigrant who was denied re-entry to the country because he didn’t realize his visa had expired.

According to Rubio, immigration officials were so moved by the man’s plight that they allowed him back in the country. That man, Rubio said, was his grandfather, whose experiences instilled in him a love of politics.

Rubio did not mention presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by name, but he did mention the man set to take the stage later in the afternoon — President Barack Obama.

Rubio garnered a laugh when he quipped, “I could say he hasn’t been here in three years, but he’s back now that there’s an election. I could say he’s going to tell you how important your vote is…Actually, I guess I did just say that.”