After months of courting Hispanic voters on the campaign trail, at their party conventions and on the television airwaves, Mitt Romney and President Obama are heading to the epicenter of U.S. Latino news this week in what will undoubtedly be a direct appeal to this pivotal voting bloc.
Starting with Romney Wednesday night, Univision News will broadcast a "Meet the Candidates" forum focusing on issues that are especially important to Hispanics. Obama will follow on Thursday.
Romney has significant ground to make up with Latinos, who support Obama by a 35 point margin according to an August NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll.
The GOP nominee's campaign said it is aiming to win 38 percent of the Hispanic vote in November, more than the 31 percent Sen. John McCain won in 2008 but short of the 40 percent that picked George W. Bush in 2004. Romney currently has the support of only 23 percent of Latinos.
Here's a look at where both candidates stand when it comes to immigration.
Romney: "The answer is self-deportation"
Obama: "It makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans"
Mitt Romney riled Latino voters in January when he said at a GOP primary debate that "self-deportation" is the best way to deal with the millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the country.
"The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," Romney said.
Romney supports an E-Verify system that requires employers to check the legal status of prospective employees before hiring them.
President Obama announced in June that rather than sending young undocumented immigrants out of the country, he would grant them two-year work permits, granted they meet certain requirements.
The Obama administration will no longer deport undocumented immigrants who came to the country before they were 16 and are currently younger than 30, have been in the country for five consecutive years, are either in school or have a high school diploma, a GED or have served in the military.
"This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary, stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people," Obama said after announcing the new policy.
While young immigrants are no longer being deported under the Obama administration, the president increased deportations of criminals by 89 percent since 2008, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Obama explained the increase - 217,000 criminals were deported in 2011 compared to 114,000 in 2008 – saying at a campaign event in El Paso, Texas, last May "we are focusing our limited resources on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income."
Deportations of non-criminals have decreased 29 percent since 2008 to 180,000 in 2011.
Obama: "I will sign it right away."
Romney: Will you veto the Dream Act? "The answer is yes"
President Obama urged Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would give young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as minors a path to citizenship if they attend college or serve in the military.
In June Obama called on Republicans in Congress -- who blocked the bill in the Senate in 2010 – to "send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away" because "it's the right thing to do, period."
Romney, on the other hand, vowed to veto the Dream Act when asked about it during a campaign event in December. While he opposes a path to citizenship for young immigrants who attend college, Romney said that for "those who serve in our military and fulfill those requirements I respect and acknowledge that path."
Romney is staunchly opposed to the state version of the Dream Act, which provides in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
"That doesn't make sense to me," Romney said of Texas' Dream Act during a GOP primary debate in Orlando. "That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense."
Obama: "That fence is now basically complete."
Romney: "Of course we build a fence"
When Congress voted to construct portions of a border fence along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2006, then-Sen. Obama voted to support the fence. Five years later, as president, Obama said "that fence is basically complete."
According to a 2011 Government Accountability Office study, 649 miles of the 652-mile fence mandated by Congress have been completed. And while that is only three miles short of fulfilling current congressional requirements, it is far from covering the entire 1,900-mile border.
Romney has called for the current fence to be extended along the entire border and reinforced with a second layer to make crossing more difficult.
"We've got to have a fence," Romney said during a GOP primary debate in California.
|Arizona's Immigration Law|
Obama: "I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona's immigration law."
Romney: "The right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing."
Romney has not explicitly said he supports Arizona's controversial "show me your papers" immigration law, which requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone the suspect is in the country illegally. But the GOP nominee touted the support of one of the law's chief architects, Kris Kobach, who is an "informal adviser" of his campaign.
He called for the Justice Department to drop its lawsuit against the state's immigration law, which he called "the right course for America" in February during a GOP primary debate in the state.
The Obama administration brought the lawsuit against Arizona's law claiming the state law thwarted federal laws, an argument the Supreme Court largely upheld by throwing out all but one of the law's provisions. Obama said the law was "misguided" and called instead for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.
|English as the Official Language|
Obama: "Because there are Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens who may not speak English well… I don't want them to not be able to get those services."
Romney: "English should be the official language of the United States"
In 2007 then-Sen. Obama voted against making English the official language. During a Democratic primary debate in 2007, Obama explained his stance:
"Because there are Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens who may not speak English well, and if they're seeking help, for example, on some vital health care question, or a senior citizen who emigrated here a long time ago and they're trying to get their Social Security check, I don't want them to not be able to get those services," Obama said during the NPR debate.
If English was made the official language, no government documents could be printed in any other language. Currently, many federal and state documents such as driver's license applications are printed in both Spanish and English.
Mitt Romney supports making English the official language.
"People need to learn English to be successful to get great jobs," Romney said at a GOP primary debate hosted by NBC. "We don't want to have people to be limited in their ability to achieve the American Dream because they don't speak English."