Obama vowed in an interview with Univision to pursue comprehensive immigration reform and attacked Romney and GOP lawmakers, saying they would oppose his efforts.
President Obama promised to pursue immigration reform in his second term, but said Republicans in Congress may keep him from succeeding.
“I can promise that I will try to do it in the first year of my second term,” Obama said in an interview with Univision set to air on Sunday. “I want to try this year. The challenge we've got on immigration reform is very simple. I've got a majority of Democrats who are prepared to vote for it, and I've got no Republicans who are prepared to vote for it.”
The president also took a shot at Mitt Romney, his likely Republican opponent in the fall, for supporting Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law.
“We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country; that - and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption.”
Univision reporter Enrique Acevedo interjected to describe such stops as “racial profiling.”
“Very troublesome,” Obama continued. “And this is something that the Republican nominee has said should be a model for the country. So what we need is a change either of Congress or we need Republicans to change their mind, and I think this has to be an important debate during - throughout the country.”
In 2008, then-candidate Obama promised to address immigration reform in his first year in office. Some in the Hispanic community are upset with the president for not following through on that promise when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate.
Still, the president enjoys overwhelming support from Hispanic voters. In a Fox News Latino survey released last month, none of the Republican candidates took more than 14 percent of Latino support in head-to-head match-ups against the president, and 73 percent said they approved of the job Obama has been doing, well above Gallup’s national average of 49 percent.
Latino voters went strongly for Obama in 2008, and the president will need a similar turnout in 2012 to secure a second term in what will be a tightly contested race.
While the administration has put immigration reform on the backburner at times, the president likely sees an opening to cement his support among Latino voters by resurrecting the issue – the presumptive Republican nominee, Romney, is on record as opposing the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States, a measure which 90 percent of Latino voters say they support.
“What I've said to Latinos across the United States is that my passion for this issue is undiminished; that when it comes to, for example, the Dream Kids who have been raised as Americans and see themselves as Americans and want to serve their country or are willing to work hard in school and start businesses or work in our laboratories and in our businesses, it is shameful that we cannot get that done,” Obama said.
“And so I'm just going to keep on pushing as hard as I can, and what I'm going to be encouraging is the Latino community continue to ask every member of Congress where they stand on these issues, but the one thing that I think everybody needs to understand is that this is something I care deeply about. It's personal to me, and I will do everything that I can to try to get it done. But ultimately I'm going to need Congress to help me,” he added.
Romney spokesperson Amanda Henneberg shot back, saying that the president’s promise to tackle immigration reform was merely an election-year political ploy.
“President Obama only talks about immigration reform when he's seeking votes, Henneberg said in an email to The Hill. “Then-candidate Obama promised to tackle immigration reform in his first year. More than three years into his term, America is still waiting for his immigration plan.”
Henneberg defended Romney’s position.
“As governor, Mitt Romney fought to protect legal immigration by working to end illegal immigration,” she said. “He will do the same as President by fixing and improving our broken immigration system, respecting those who are waiting patiently to come here legally, and finally ending illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner.”
This story was updated at 2:10 p.m.