Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney sought to reach out to the nation's Hispanic voters on Thursday.
Speaking at a conference of Latino elected officials, Romney emphasized that he was running for the highest office in a united country.
"There is more that unites us than divides us," he said. "Each of us walks a different path in life, but we are united by one great, overwhelming passion: We love the United States of America."
Romney quickly pivoted, however, to criticize the record of President Barack Obama, who he hopes to unseat in November.
After more than three years of Obama's policies, Romney said that too many Americans remain out of work.
"At a time when we should be gaining momentum in the economy, we're actually seeing us lose a little bit of it right now," Romney said. "And as you know, Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard."
Romney repeated some of his familiar criticisms of Obama's record, claiming that the middle-class has been "crushed" under the Obama Administration while also noting that unemployment for Hispanics remains even higher than the 8 percent average for the nation overall.
"And yet the President said that the private sector is doing fine," Romney said. "This is more than a policy failure. It's a moral failure."
He added, "We shouldn't allow the challenges [Obama] faced four years ago to divert our attention from another important fact: The President pursued policies that made this the slowest recovery since the Great Depression."
Romney railed against the idea of increasing taxes to pay for more government services and pledged to work to bring manufacturing jobs back to American shores while also reducing the federal deficit.
"We can't keep on borrowing massively more than we take in without putting the country at peril," he said. "So as President I'll rein in spending and I will get the budget balanced. And I will repeal Obamacare."
He added, "Everybody likes free stuff, but there is no free stuff when government has to pay and tax the American people or borrow from future generations."
Many had expected Romney to use the forum before Latino elected officials to address the question of undocumented immigrants in the country and respond to Obama's decision last week to cease deportation of certain illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children.
However, Romney merely claimed that Obama had failed to address immigration reform, noting that for Obama's first two years in office the President had large majorities in the House and Senate.
Obama did advance some immigration-related proposals during his first term, though his most comprehensive effort, the DREAM Act, was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.
"He did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system," Romney said of Obama. "Instead, he failed to act until facing a tough reelection."
Romney added, "I think you deserve better."
Romney did not directly address how he would alter or modify Obama's recent changes if he is elected president.
Instead, Romney said he would find his own long-term solution to "replace and supersede" Obama's temporary measure.
"As President, I won't settle for stopgap measures," Romney said. "I'll work with Republicans and Democrats to build a long term solution."
He added, "I will prioritize efforts that strengthen legal immigration and make it more transparent and easier."
Romney said he would redouble the nation's efforts to secure its borders and eliminate bureaucracy in the legal immigration process and work to keep families together.
Romney also said he would "staple a Green Card" to the diploma of any foreign student who completed an advanced degree as a way to encourage those educated in the United States to remain and contribute to the economy.
However, Romney offered little insight as to how he would address the status of illegal immigrants already in the United States, a figure estimated by some to be more than 10 million.
by RTT Staff Writer
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