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President Obama is promising to push for a major immigration overhaul in Congress in 2013 should he win re-election.
In an off-the-record interview Tuesday with the Des Moines Register that the Obama campaign released Wednesday, the president said he is “confident” that he could get an immigration overhaul “done next year.”
“I will just be very blunt,” Obama added in the interview. “Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”
Polls consistently have showed the president with a huge edge over GOP challenger Mitt Romney among Latino voters, who could play a decisive role in the election, particularly in swing states such as Nevada or Florida.
Latino Decisions, a group that tracks public opinion among Hispanics, on Wednesday released poll results showing that Obama enjoys the support of around 74 percent of Latino voters, while only 26 percent support Romney. The Romney campaign has set a target of getting 38 percent of the Latino vote, an outcome that is looking increasingly unlikely.
But immigration legislation has been notoriously difficult to pass in Congress in recent years and many advocates have faulted Obama for not making a stronger push during his first term.
In 2010, the House approved a bill known as the DREAM Act (HR 1842, S 952) that would put young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children on a path to citizenship. But the legislation failed to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Since then, immigration bills have been dead on arrival.
During an interview last month with Univision, Obama said not getting an immigration overhaul done was the “biggest failure” of his first term.
In an end run around Congress, Obama in June announced that his administration would grant a reprieve from deportation to young people who would be eligible for citizenship under the DREAM Act. Republicans criticized the new policy, saying the president did not have the power to unilaterally change the law.
Romney, however, has had varying responses. After earlier in his campaign urging illegal immigrants to “self-deport,” he said in an Oct. 1 interview with the Denver Post that he would not revoke the work permits granted to young undocumented immigrants under the Obama administration’s new policy. Romney’s campaign later added that he would cancel the program and not grant additional permits.
As of earlier this month, roughly 4,500 applications had already been approved for the new “deferred action” program, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
During the Oct. 16 presidential debate, Romney also promised to address immigration during his first year in office. Unlike Obama, Romney said he supports tougher employment verification using an online system called E-Verify. He also said he supports denying drivers’ licenses and other benefits to undocumented immigrants to encourage them to “self-deport,” but he left the door open to allowing young undocumented people living in the country through no fault of their own to stay as legal residents.
“Military service for instance is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident,” he said.
Democratic immigration advocates on Capitol Hill have been pushing Obama to take a more forceful stand on the issue.
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., said in September that he hoped Obama would invite Republicans who have shown an interest in immigration bills — such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — to a White House discussion. That, Gutierrez said, “will bring along the Republican support necessary to solve one of our nation’s most pressing issues.”