Romney To Latino Voters: 'You Have An Alternative'

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed Latino elected officials in Orlando on Thursday. After a primary season in which he talked of "self-deportation" among immigrants and vowed to veto the Dream Act, Romney was greeted skeptically. He said his immigration policy would include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who serve in the U.S. military and green cards for those who earn advanced degrees in the U.S.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block, hosting this week from NPR West in California.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel in Washington, D.C. The tug-of-war is heating up over Latino votes. Last week, President Obama gained some ground when he offered to extend work permits to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Today, Mitt Romney told a Latino audience in Florida that he would get rid of that policy, and find a more permanent solution.

But as we hear from NPR's Scott Horsley, Romney offered no details.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Mitt Romney has no illusion he's going to win the Latino vote in November, but he would like to whittle away at the president's big advantage. Four years ago, Mr. Obama won twice as many Latino votes as GOP nominee John McCain did. Romney told a convention of Latino politicians in Florida today, their support for the president should not be automatic.

MITT ROMNEY: I believe he's taking your vote for granted. I've come here today with a very simple message: You do have an alternative.

HORSLEY: The Latino vote's increasingly important across the country - and especially in certain swing states, including Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Romney complained the sour economy under Mr. Obama has been especially hard on Latinos, and he accused the president of breaking his campaign promise to reform immigration.

ROMNEY: For two years, this president had huge majorities in the House and Senate. He was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system - nothing.

HORSLEY: It takes a certain amount of chutzpah for Romney to make that charge since it was Republican opposition in the Senate that blocked immigration reform. That's why Mr. Obama resorted to executive action last week, granting those undocumented young people a two-year reprieve from deportation. Romney, who's taken a particularly hard line against illegal immigration, said today he would replace that policy with his own plan.

ROMNEY: As president, I won't settle for stop-gap measures. I'll work with Republicans and Democrats to build a long-term solution.

HORSLEY: Romney spoke in general terms about border enforcement, ID requirements for workers, and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who serve in the military. He said nothing else about how he'd handle illegal immigrants who entered the country as children. That left Tony Ortiz(ph) unsatisfied.

TONY ORTIZ: We're still not getting the particulars, so I want to hear more. I didn't hear enough today.

HORSLEY: As a city commissioner from nearby Orlando, Ortiz is playing the role of host at this convention. He's also a voter in a swing district of a swing state, where the Latino vote could make a big difference in November.

ORTIZ: Latinos, if they come out and vote, yes.

HORSLEY: That's still a big if. Mr. Obama's move on immigration last week could be seen as an effort to boost Latino turnout. The president will get a chance to make his own case to this same convention tomorrow.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

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