Romney slams Obama over immigration record

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns in Muskego, Wis., Saturday, March 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns in Muskego, Wis., Saturday, March 31, 2012.
Steven Senne

(CBS News) MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Making a pitch aimed at the nation's growing pool of Hispanic voters, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney attacked President Obama today for failing to fix the nation's broken immigration system. He said that as president he would allow immigrants with advanced college degrees to stay in the country.

Speaking at an oil distributorship, the former Massachusetts governor said the president "chooses to do nothing" about fixing America's immigration laws and noted that Obama had pledged to make the issue a priority during his 2008 campaign for the White House.

"He campaigned saying he was going to reform immigration laws and simplify and protect the border and so forth, and then he had two years with a Democrat House and Democrat Senate and a super majority in each House, and he did nothing," Romney told a town hall audience. "So let the immigrant community not forget that while he uses this as a political weapon, he does not take responsibility for fixing the problems we have."

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Romney has staked out one of the most conservative positions on immigration in the Republican field, saying he would veto the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. He has also called Arizona's tough immigration law a "model" for the country. The Arizona law makes the failure to carry immigration papers a crime and also grants police the authority to detain anyone they believe might be in the country illegally.

Romney has also said he is in favor of "self-deportation," in which illegal immigrants without proper work identification cards would be denied jobs and leave the country on their own.

But today in Wisconsin, Romney declined to mention those positions when asked what type of immigration reforms he would implement if elected. Instead, he called the country's current policies "upside down," saying they made it harder for highly skilled and educated workers to come to the country, while allowing those who were here illegally without such skills to remain indefinitely. He suggested that immigrants with master's degrees or Ph.D's be automatically allowed to remain.

"Staple a green card to their diploma - welcome to the United States of America!" Romney said. "We want those people in our country."

He also said he wanted to simplify the legal immigration process to make it easier for all workers to enter. "We love people coming here legally, particularly that speak English, that can work in jobs here, that can create new industries, that are innovative," he said.

Gabriela Domenzain, a spokesman for the Obama reelection campaign, said, "Mitt Romney's attempt to Etch A Sketch his record on immigration has begun. But his extreme positions on immigration can't be erased. He has campaigned with the nation's leading anti-immigrant voices, promised to veto the DREAM Act, and wants to encourage all undocumented immigrants to self-deport. He would have the most extreme immigration platform of any presidential nominee in recent history."

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