Romney Promises Not to 'Round Up' Undocumented Immigrants

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns at a rally at Darwin Fuchs Pavilion in Miami, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012.
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Mitt Romney sought to repair the damage from his "47 percent" remarks, saying here today he is concerned about the well-being of all voters at a "Meet the Candidate" event sponsored by Univision.

Romney found himself in a defensive crouch this week after a leaked video showed his making disparaging comments about voters of lesser means. He also faced the challenge of appealing to a Latino viewing audience that he has so far struggled to attract during the campaign.

"My campaign is about the 100 percent of America," Romney said in a refrain he would repeat four times during the 45-minute event.

"I know I'm not going to get 100 percent of the vote, and my campaign will focus on those people we think we can bring in to support it," he said. "But this campaign is about helping people who need help."

Romney, 65, was also pressed on the hot-button issue of immigration by Univision anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas at the BankUnited Center Field House on the University of Miami campus.

The candidate emphasized that he would expand legal immigration and said that he wouldn't aggressively pursue undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

"I am not going to be going around the country and rounding them up," he said.

He also criticized President Obama for not taking up an immigration overhaul bill during his first year in the White House, a promise he made to Ramos during the 2008 campaign.

"When I'm president, I will actually do what I promise, I will put in place an immigration reform system that resolves this issue," he said.

But Romney refused to provide more details about how he would handle 1 million-plus young undocumented immigrants who are eligible for a temporary reprieve from deportation under "deferred action," the Obama administration program that is popular among Latino voters.

"For those who are already here and that are undocumented and were brought here by their parents and are therefore illegal aliens in this country, my view is that we should put in place a permanent solution," he said.

When pressed, Romney again insisted that he would not "round up" undocumented people. He said that he would provide a pathway to permanent resident status for undocumented immigrants who pursue military service, but did not say what would happen to those seeking a college degree.

He also stuck by his guns on some of the tougher positions he adopted during the GOP primary, such as "self-deportation" and his support for the Arizona immigration law.

"I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home and that's what I mean by 'self deportation,'" Romney said. "People decide if they want to go back to their country of origin and get in line legally to be able to come to this country."

Romney has struggled mightily to attract Latino voters during this campaign. He trails Obama 66-29 percent among Latino registered voters nationwide, according to a Latino Decisions tracking poll released last week.

But Romney appeared before a partisan Republican crowd here at the BankUnited Center. When Ramos grilled him on "self-deportation," the crowd let out an audible groan.

"I have some friends, apparently," Romney said.

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