President Obama received a grilling over his immigration record at a Univision-sponsored event here Thursday, but a young undocumented student vouches for his commitment to passing an overhaul.
Benita Veliz is a DREAMer from Texas who came to the country from Mexico at age six. Earlier this month she became the first undocumented immigrant to speak at a national political convention, addressing the Democratic National Convention She said Obama is more likely than his opponent to pass immigration reform that benefits Latinos.
Veliz criticized Romney for "changing his mind" on the DREAM Act.
"Romney says he wants a permanent solution for the DREAMers, and that's the DREAM Act. But then he says he'd veto it. That doesn't make sense," Veliz said.
She was also put off by Romney's use of the term "illegal alien" during his session with Univision the previous evening.
"It's very offensive," she said.
While Veliz acknowledges that it's unclear whether either candidate will be able to pass meaningful immigration reform in the next four years, she said Romney's approval of Arizona's SB 1070 law, and his alliance with immigration hardliners such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach make a lot of people nervous.
Freddy Balsera, an Obama surrogate, says Romney's remarks at the event yesterday "demonstrated a lack of understanding" of the Hispanic community. He also criticized Republicans for failing to work with the president to pass true immigration reform.
"Look, the strongest supporter for immigration reform is Barack Obama," he said, adding that "it's not for a lack of trying" that immigration reform has not been passed.
"We're hopeful Republicans will realize that during Obama's second term they'll have to work with him" to earn the support of the Latino community.
The Obama administration recently began accepting applications for temporary deportation relief from some undocumented young people as part of a deferred action program for people who arrived in the country as children.
While Obama acknowledges the plan is not the permanent solution he had hoped for, he said it was something he felt passionate about passing.
"I did this because I met young people all across the country, wonderful kids who sometimes were valedictorians, were participating in the community, had aspirations to go to college, some were serving in our military," he said. "There's no way you would think it was fair or just for us to have them suffering under a cloud of deportation."