Romney Softens Tough Talk on Immigration

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At least one in six Americans is of Hispanic descent, making the Hispanic vote important for both candidates, and both are working to win it.

On Thursday, Mitt Romney got more specific about his plan for immigration reform in the swing state of Florida.

Romney alienated many Latino voters with is tough talk on immigration reform during the GOP primary.

Now he's asking Hispanics to think about whether or not their lives have improved since President Obama moved into the White House.

Speaking to elected and appointed Latino leaders, Romney stayed true to the message he has pushed from Day 1: Jobs and the economy.

Click play to watch Jennifer Wishon's report followed by more comments on how the Hispanic vote impacts the upcoming election from Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Romney cited the disproportionately high unemployment among Hispanics, and a poverty rate that's grown by two million since President Obama took office.

"This is more than a policy failure," Romney said. "It's a moral failure."

Hispanics celebrated the president's recent decision to stop deporting certain young law-abiding Latinos who were brought to the U.S. Illegally as children. Romney suggests that is nothing more than an election-year ploy.

"For two years, this president has huge majorities in the House and Senate," Romney said. "He was free to pursue any policy he pleased, but he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. Nothing. Instead he failed to act until facing a tough reelection."

Romney said he would replace the president's executive order with comprehensive reform.

That would include completing a border fence and securing the border, setting up an e-verify system for employers, and making it easier for highly skilled workers to stay in the U.S. since immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business.

"If you get an advanced degree here we want to you stay here, so I'd staple a green card to the diploma of someone who gets an advanced degree here in America," Romney said to audience applause.

Romney opposes amnesty, suggesting it encourages illegal immigration. However, he said he'd end immigration caps to help keep families together.

"Our immigration system should promote strong families as well, not keep them apart," Romney said. "Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof."

The Hispanic vote is in no way monolithic, but in recent years has belonged to Democrats. Romney told Hispanics that President Obama is taking their vote for granted.

The president will deliver his own message to the group on Friday.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.