Backing off the harsh rhetoric of the Republican primaries, Mitt Romney pledged to bring a long-term solution to America's illegal immigration problem in a speech in Florida Thursday.
"I will prioritize efforts that strengthen legal immigration and make it more transparent and easier. And I'm going to address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner,” said Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
The former Massachusetts governor spoke before a meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials near Orlando.
Romney promised major reforms to the immigration system, calling President Barack Obama’s executive order halting deportations of many young illegal immigrants a “stop-gap measure.”
The Latino vote is very important in the upcoming presidential election, with Republicans and Democrats looking to win over one of the largest voting blocks in the country.
Obama, who is riding a wave of Latino enthusiasm over his decision to allow hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work, will speak before NALEO on Friday.
Paul Crespo, a Cuban-American with Miami-Dade’s Republican Party, points to the president’s record number of deportations, and compares that to Romney's notion that illegal immigrants will self-deport if they can't find work in America.
“Over a million and a half, I believe it's more than Bush did in eight years, he deported in less than three. He's got, I think, the highest number of deportations in the history of any president,” Crespo said. “So if anyone is going to compare Romney with Obama, Obama actually deported people, Romney just said it would be good for them to leave on their own.”