ORLANDO – Mitt Romney outlined a broad immigration policy before an influential group of Hispanics on Thursday, saying Presidnet Obama failed to enact reform while offering his own plan that calls for permanent residency for highly skilled college graduates and members of the military, a streamlined work visa system and a "high-tech fence to enhance border security."
"Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure," Romney said. "As President, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner. We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it."
Exceprts from his speech.
Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard. While national unemployment is still above 8%, Hispanic unemployment is at 11%.
The middle class has been crushed under President Obama. More Americans are living in poverty today than at any point in history. Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office.
Home values have plunged, our national debt is at record levels and families are buried under higher prices for food and gasoline.
And yet our President says the private sector is doing fine. This is more than a policy failure; it is a moral failure.
Unfortunately, despite his promises, President Obama has failed to address immigration reform.
For two years, this President had huge majorities in the House and Senate - he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. Instead, he failed to act until facing a tough re-election and trying to secure your vote.
Last week, the President finally offered a temporary measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election. After three and a half years of putting every issue from loan guarantees for his donors to Cash For Clunkers before immigration, now the President has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on Day One. I think you deserve better.
Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure.
As President, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner. We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it.
As I have said many times, it is critical that we redouble our efforts to secure the borders. That means both preventing illegal border crossings and making it harder to illegally overstay a visa. We should field enough border patrol agents, complete a high-tech fence, and implement an improved exit verification system.
Our immigration system should help promote strong families, not keep them apart. Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof. But, today, too many families are caught in a broken system that costs them time and money and entangles them in red tape. For those seeking to come to America the right way, that kind of bureaucratic nightmare has to end. And we can do this with just a few common-sense reforms.
As President, I will reallocate Green Cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof. We will exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents. And we will eliminate other forms of bureaucratic red tape that keep families from being together.
Immigration reform is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity as well. Immigrants with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at a high rate. Immigrants founded or cofounded nearly half of our 50 top venture-backed companies. They are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business. And that kind of risk taking is something we need more than ever because new business starts are now at a 30-year low.
I will work with states and employers to update our temporary worker visa program so that it meets our economic needs.
And if you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here - so we will staple a green card to your diploma. We want the best and brightest to enrich the nation through the jobs and technologies they will help create.
We also have a strong tradition in this country of honoring immigrants who join our military and put their lives on the line to keep this country safe. Since September 11, 2001, the United States has naturalized almost 75,000 members of the Armed Forces. Too many of these patriots died on distant battlefields for our freedom before receiving full citizenship here in the country they called "home."
As President, I will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service. Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America.
But improving access to legal immigration is only one part of the equation. We must also make legal immigration more attractive than illegal immigration, so that people are rewarded for waiting patiently in line. That's why my administration will establish a strong employment verification system so that every business can know with confidence that the people it hires are legally eligible for employment.
We can find common ground here, and we must. We owe it to ourselves as Americans to ensure that our country remains a land of opportunity - both for those who were born here and for those who share our values, respect our laws, and want to come to our shores.
"The United States is currently excluding too many workers who will start businesses, create jobs, foster innovation, and help grow our economy," a release states.
Attract More Highly Skilled Immigrants:
· High-skill immigrants start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at an especially high rate. The United States is also projected to face a shortage of 230,000 science and technology workers by 2018. At the same time, we have set the caps on high-skill visas so low that, for some countries, an entire year's quota has been filled in an hour. Mitt Romney will ask Congress to raise the caps on visas for highly skilled immigrants.
· Many country caps—or limits on immigrants from specific countries—are so low, that America is losing some of the best and brightest to our international competitors. Mitt Romney will work with Congress to raise the country caps.
· America should keep the best and the brightest here in the United States. Every foreign student who obtains an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering at a U.S. university should be granted permanent residency.
Make The Temporary Worker Visa System Functional:
Too often, harvest or tourist season passes before temporary worker visas are approved. In 2006 and 2007, nearly half (43%) of all applications for temporary agricultural workers were not processed on time.
· As president, Mitt Romney will make the system for bringing in temporary agricultural workers and other seasonal workers functional for both employers and immigrants. We should get rid of unnecessary requirements that delay issuance of a visa, and we should speed the processing of applications.
· Mitt Romney will work with Congress, states, and employers to properly set the cap on non-agricultural temporary worker visas. Many tourist-oriented businesses in the United States rely on these workers and would have to cut back or cease operations if there are not enough visas.
Secure Our Borders & Discourage Illegal Immigration
According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, Border Patrol lacks control of over half of our southwest border. And some estimates indicate that over 40% of illegal immigrants in America entered the country legally, but then overstayed their visas.
· Mitt Romney will complete a high-tech fence to enhance border security.
· Mitt Romney will ensure that we have the officers on the ground we need to gain control of the border.
· A Romney Administration will work to develop an efficient, effective system of exit verification to ensure people do not overstay their visas.
· Mitt Romney will develop an effective, mandatory employment verification system that will enable employers to be sure that those they hire are eligible to work. This will discourage illegal immigrants from coming to America to seek jobs.
· Mitt Romney will foster a legal immigration system that works. This will offer an alternative to those who would otherwise enter illegally. For instance, reforming our current temporary worker program will offer employers who need such staff a legal option to find employees.
Cut Red Tape That Is Keeping Immediate Families Apart
Currently, legal immigrants in America often have to wait years to be with husbands, wives, and minor children. As president, Mitt Romney will ensure that husbands, wives, and their minor children are brought together on a timely basis.
· Mitt Romney will speed the processing of applications by eliminating the red tape that is keeping immediate families apart.
· Mitt Romney will work with Congress to give legal permanent residents the same priority as citizens when applying to bring husbands, wives, and minor children to the United States.
· Mitt Romney will reallocate green cards to family of citizens and legal permanent residents.
Mitt Romney believes that young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children should have the chance to become permanent residents, and eventually citizens, by serving honorably in the United States military.
Recognize That Ending Illegal Immigration Is A Humanitarian Issue
Studies show that up to 95% of illegal immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border are brought here by "coyotes." Unfortunately, these coyotes often abuse the people who hire them. Securing our borders and discouraging illegal immigration will dry up demand for coyotes and dry up the coyote market.