By Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
Mitt Romney vowed to "permanently" fix the nation's immigration system as he courted Hispanic voters who are solidly behind President Obama.
In a speech today before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the GOP presidential nominee stressed themes of creating jobs, balancing the budget and building small businesses.
On immigration, Romney criticized Obama's handling of the issue and promised to work with Republicans and Democrats for a comprehensive fix that has proved elusive amid the partisanship of Congress.
He told the Latino business leaders that he would make immigration procedures "far more simple and transparent," so hiring lawyers to navigate the process would become unnecessary. Romney also promised changes to the visa system that would allow immediate family members to stay together and help employers hire temporary foreign workers.;
"If someone gets an advanced degree, I want them to stay here, so I'd staple a green card to their diploma," Romney said, prompting applause from the audience.
Romney chastised Obama for not doing more to enact comprehensive immigration legislation that would cover border security as well as requirements for legal status in the USA.
"Candidate Obama said that one of his highest priorities would be to fix immigration in his first year in office," Romney said. "Despite his party having majorities in both house of Congress, the president never even offered up a bill. Like so many issues confronting our nation, when it comes to immigration, politics has been put ahead of people for too long."
Before Romney's remarks, the Obama campaign launched a pre-emptive strike and posted a two-minute Web video mocking the Republican's Latino outreach as an "extreme makeover."
Latino voters helped propel Obama to victory in 2008 and are poised to play a key role again this year -- especially in swing states such as Colorado, Nevada, Florida and Virginia.
Obama won 67% of the Hispanic vote four years ago, according to exit polls. A Latino Decisions poll taken after the Democratic convention shows Obama leading Romney among Hispanics, 66%-29%.
Romney told the Hispanic Chamber, which is meeting in Los Angeles, that he believes the GOP is the "rightful home" of Latinos. He opened his remarks by saying he was proud to represent the party of rising GOP stars such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- all Latinos elected in 2010.