Obama grilled on immigration promise

At a Miami town hall meeting on Sept. 20, 2012, the president answered a charge that he didn't keep his promise on major immigration reform.
CBS News

(CBS News) CORAL GABLES, Fla. - President Obama was in Miami for a town hall meeting on the Spanish-language network Univision. The latest Gallup poll shows the president leads among Hispanics nationwide, by a whopping 64 percent to 27. But on Thursday, he faced some really tough questions.

Back in 2008, the president told Univision he would introduce comprehensive immigration reform his first year in office. It never happened and on Thursday, he was asked repeatedly why he broke that promise. He laid the blame squarely at Republicans.

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"What I confess I did not expect," said Obama in the interview, "and so I'm happy to take responsibility for being naive here, is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform suddenly would walk away."

"A promise is a promise," said a Univision interviewer, "and with all due respect, but you didn't keep that promise."

"Well, here's what I would say is that," the president responded, "and we've had this conversation before. There's the thinking that the president is somebody who is all powerful and can get everything done. We have to have cooperation from all these sources in order to get something done."

The president insisted he is still committed to immigration reform, and he highlighted his recent executive order allowing roughly 800,000 young people who were brought here illegally to remain in the country.

"And that stands in contrast to the other candidate," said Obama, "who has said he would veto the Dream Act -- that he is uncertain about what his plan for immigration reform would be."

The Obama campaign has been courting Hispanics far more aggressively than the Romney camp, with Spanish-language ads in five battleground states that have large Hispanic populations such as Florida.

President Obama was also asked Thursday about Mr. Romney's controversial comments regarding the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes.

"Are there people who abuse the system?" he said. "Yes, both at the bottom and at the top. Because there are a whole bunch of millionaires who aren't paying taxes at all either."

The one thing the president said at the forum that is getting a lot of attention is that he learned that you can't change Washington from the inside. Now he may not have meant it exactly the way it came out, but Gov. Romney sure noticed it. He is already saying he would change Washington from the inside.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.