Mitt Romney softened his rhetoric on immigration today, telling a television audience of Hispanic voters that he would not forcibly deport millions of immigrants.
“We’re not going to round up people around the country and deport them,” he said, in a televised forum with the Spanish-language TV network Univision conducted in Miami. “We need to provide a long term solution.”
The comments marked a departure from the Republican presidential nominee’s tone during his party’s primary election campaign, when Romney differentiated himself from some of his rials by taking a hard line on immigration issues.
Romney has said that he opposes granting legal status to undocumented immigrants without first requiring that they leave the U.S., a policy he termed “self-deportation.” He’s also vowed to veto legislation — known as the Dream Act — that would grant young illegal immigrants who went to college or served in the military a pathway to citizenship.
In tonight’s forum, Romney said he would grant legal status to young immigrants who serve in the military or pursue advanced degrees, though he would not detail his immigration plans.
And he attacked President Barack Obama for failing to pursue comprehensive immigration legislation during his time in office.
“He never tried to fix the immigration system,” Romney said of Obama. “I will actually reform the immigration system and make it work for the people of America.’’
In June, the president signed an executive order stopping the deporting hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants brought to the country as children. Romney would not say whether he would overturn the measure.
Democrats seized on Romney’s lack of specificity to argue that Latinos can’t trust the Republican candidate.
“Mitt Romney is wrong on issues of importance to the Hispanic community,” Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said in a statement. “On critical issues, he continued to refuse to answer any of the tough questions or provide any specifics on what he’d do as president.”
A new poll by Fox News Latino today showed Obama leading Romney among Hispanic voters by a two-to-one margin. The survey was conducted Sept. 11-13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
Obama is scheduled to address the Univision forum tomorrow evening.