MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Mitt Romney today flatly accused President Obama of reneging on his campaign promise to enact sweeping immigration reform, despite enjoying a Democrat-controlled Congress for his first two years in office.
"This has always been a priority for the president he chooses to do nothing about," Romney said. "Let the immigrant community not forget that while he uses this as a political weapon, he has not taken responsibility for fixing the problems we have."
The GOP frontrunner's comments came at a town hall meeting at the Moore Oil Company here after an audience member, noting that his girlfriend would have to return to Spain soon when her visa runs out, asked about immigration reform.
"My own view is our immigration policies are upside down," he continued. "We make it very hard for people who have skills that we need - education and English-speaking and workplace skills - make it very hard for those people to come here and to stay here. On the other hand, those that don't have any of those things are often times able to come either across the border or over-stay their visas and remain in this country indefinitely. So we've got it backwards."
As to the audience member's predicament, Romney stated his opinion that if someone has a masters degree or a Ph.D. from an institution of higher learning in this country, then the government should "staple a green card to their diploma."
"Welcome them here to the United States of America. We want those people in our country," he noted. "At the same time we want to make sure that we stop illegal immigration so we can protect legal immigration. Legal immigration is something we conservatives like. We love people coming here legally, particularly that speak English, that can work in jobs here, that can create new industries, that are innovative. The immigrant population that comes here doesn't come here for a check. They come here for opportunity. These are our voters. So I want to work on an immigration policy that secures the border and that also simplifies the legal immigration process so that we bring in people here that can help build our economy and build our future.
"That is something that I will not just talk about in this campaign. This will be a priority of mine if I become president to make sure we finally reform our immigration laws step by step, secure the border, improve our legal immigration system, so we can keep people here and welcome people here who will make America a stronger nation," he said.
In this state just south of Canada, you might not think that immigration and border security would be much of an issue, but it was a topic that came up twice during the event - sort of. The first mention of border security was a light-hearted one after Romney was surprised to see an audience member who took the microphone to ask a question wearing a University of Oklahoma Sooners shirt.
"You guys got a border security problem here," Romney quipped, triggering laughter from the crowd.
In Wisconsin, red and white sports gear is a familiar sight, but usually for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, not the Sooners. Madison is around 85 miles due west of here, while Norman, Okla., is 900 miles south. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who joined Romney at the event, noted moments later that he has two dogs: one named Boomer and the other Sooner. The University of Oklahoma's fight song is "Boomer Sooner."
Romney has faced stinging criticism from the Obama campaign for the past few months as the president's surrogates have repeatedly dubbed him "the most extreme candidate" on issues affecting Latinos. Despite the criticism, Romney has enjoyed success in primaries with a strong Latino presence, winning in Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Puerto Rico.