Hispanic Dems label Romney ‘extremist’ on immigration

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Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), echoed that message, warning that Romney's policy priorities have been to shower tax benefits on the wealthy while outsourcing middle-class jobs.

"Mitt Romney has not only misrepresented the president's record, he has yet to offer one idea that would create good paying stable jobs for the Latino middle class," Gonzalez charged. 

The Democrats' conference call was scheduled to coincide with a speech Romney gave Monday before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, where he blasted President Obama for an economic record that he says has left Hispanics high and dry.

“While national unemployment is 8.1 percent, Hispanic unemployment is over 10 percent," Romney said. "Over 2 million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office.”

Romney is also reaching out to the Latino community over the airwaves. He conducted interviews Monday with the Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision.

New polls indicate Romney has a steep climb ahead as he hopes to nibble away at Obama's commanding lead when it comes to Latino voters. Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008 and recent polls indicate that that figure hasn't changed much four years later.

Romney is trying to perform the delicate dance of appealing to more Latinos without alienating a conservative base that wants a more enforcement-based policy on illegal immigration.

Complicating the debate for Republicans, Romney adopted a hard-line position on immigration when attacking his primary opponents — notably Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) — for their more lenient approaches to undocumented students and workers.

Amid that primary debate, Romney promoted a policy of making it so difficult for illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States that they would "self-deport" — a position that hasn't been overlooked by the Democrats fighting to reelect Obama.

"There is virtually nothing short of self-deportation — trying to remove all 10-12 million …  people who are undocumented in this country — that would satisfy Mitt Romney," Becerra said Monday.

Romney has taken steps to soften his immigration positions since the primaries. In June, for instance, he laid out an outline for comprehensive immigration reform that would extend permanent residency to qualified illegal immigrant students and forge a pathway to citizenship for those who join the military — two provisions that many conservatives consider "amnesty."