Obama: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply, a step that could benefit 800,000 to 1.4 million. "It's a temporary measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while offering some justice to these young people." Took the step after failing to deliver on a promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he is still committed to it. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama, nearly 400,000 in each of the last three years.
Romney: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence, opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. Opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Would establish a national immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire noncitizens who do not prove their authorized status. The government's existing E-Verify system is voluntary. Proposes more visas for holders of advanced degrees in math, science and engineering who have U.S. job offers and would award permanent residency to foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools with a degree in those fields. Would end caps on visas for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants. Although criticizing Obama's directive protecting immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, would not say if he would reverse it, pledging instead an unspecified "civil but resolute" long-term fix to illegal immigration.
Obama: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security's long-term financial problems. During budget negotiations in 2011, proposed adopting a new measurement of inflation that would reduce annual increases in Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the long-term financing shortfall by about 25 percent, according to the Social Security actuaries.
Romney: Protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generation of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years and reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.
Obama: Wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. Supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all. Wants to let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, built a first-term record of significant tax cuts for families and business, some temporary.
Romney: Keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest. End Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.
Obama: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden, set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended later in George W. Bush's presidency. Largely carried forward Bush's key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Also has continued with military commissions instead of civilian courts for detainees and invocation of state secrets privilege in court. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen.
Romney: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, refused to rule out use of waterboarding to interrogate terrorist suspects. In 2011, his campaign said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture.
Obama: Ended the Iraq war he had opposed and inherited, increased the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. Approved use of U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple Moammar Gadhafi's government. Major reductions coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut $487 billion in military spending over a decade.
Romney: Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan, subject to conditions at the time. Would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016.
Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Dina Cappiello, Ken Thomas, Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.
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