President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney pledge to pursue immigration reform

Published: Sunday, June 24 2012 1:40 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Friday, June 8, 2012. President Barack Obama and Romney courted Latino voters this week, presenting plans for immigration reform.

Nati Harnik, Associated Press

A week after President Barack Obama issued an executive order halting the deportations of some young illegal immigrants, he told a friendly audience of Latino leaders he will push to make more permanent changes to the country's immigration system.

Obama did not present a plan for an overhaul, though, saying he expects Congress to shoulder that responsibility, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The president blamed Congress for the lack of progress on immigration reform. Despite a 2008 campaign pledge to take early action on immigration, Obama has not tried to advance a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. Republicans blocked the Dream Act, a less sweeping proposal that would have given young illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military a path to citizenship.

Republican conservatives have “created the same kind of stalemate on immigration reform that we're seeing on a whole range of other economic issues, and it's given rise to a patchwork of state laws that cause more problems than they solve and are often doing more harm than good,” he said. “This makes no sense. It's not good for America. And as long as I am president of the United States, I will not give up the fight to change it.”

Critics called Obama out for failing to take responsibility.

"It's pathetic, actually, to see a president who hasn't delivered on this issue telling the crowd to go talk to Congress," wrote Jennifer Rubin in an editorial for The Washington Post. "Is he the president? Only in name, it seems."

While immigrant advocates have cheered Obama's order to begin granting work permits to some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, they have voiced concern that the temporary measure leaves people in legal limbo.

"To make a real difference, these young people need something more than a memo; they need citizenship," wrote Justin Akers Chacon, a professor of U.S history and Chicano studies at San Diego City College, in an editorial for The Philadelphia Enquirer. "The policy defers deportation only for the duration of the permit; it does not remove the threat altogether. It also leaves out millions, including the parents and other relatives of the youths who qualify for the reprieve."

The president reminded the crowd that his opponent Mitt Romney promised to veto legislation that would make the order more permanent.

“I believe that would be a tragic mistake," he said. "You do, too.”

In the meantime, with the Republican nomination all but in the bag, Romney, who has said he supports encouraging illegal immigrants to "self-deport," is softening his approach to immigration, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

In his address to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Thursday, Romney pledged to redouble efforts to secure U.S. borders and make it more difficult to overstay visas. He said he plans to issue green cards to foreigners who earn advanced degrees in the United States, reallocate green cards to keep families together and create a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who serve in the military.

But Romney sidestepped questions about whether he planned to undo Obama's executive order halting deportations for some young illegal immigrants. Instead, he reassured voters, "I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure."

Some passed Romney's plan off as old and tired.

"What Romney glossed over Thursday before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials was how difficult some of those changes could be," Alicia A. Caldwell said in an Associated Press editorial. "Some already have been tried, with little or no success."

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