September 20th, 2012
08:51 PM ET
Miami, FL (CNN) - President Barack Obama flew to Miami on Thursday to try to shore up Latino support in a town hall forum broadcast by the Spanish language network Univision.
Before an audience of 700 Spanish speakers – half college students - at the “Meet the Candidates” forum, Obama defended his record on immigration and tried to explain why his administration did not fulfill a 2008 campaign promise to tackle comprehensive reform in his first year in office.
“When we talked about immigration reform in the first year, that was before the economy was on the verge of collapse … the stock market was collapsing. And so my first priority, was making sure we prevented us from going into a great depression.”
Univision host Jorge Ramos pressed Obama on his pledge, saying “a promise is a promise.” Obama countered that the lack of legislation in Congress was not entirely his fault. Republican political opponents, he said, kept many significant immigration measures from getting off the ground.
"I am happy to take responsibility for the fact that we didn't get it done," Obama said. "But I did not make a promise that I would get everything done 100% when I was elected as president. What I promised was that I would work every single day as hard as I can to make sure that everybody in this country regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they come from, that they would have a fair shot at the American dream. And that promise I've kept."
President Obama was also asked about the recent Inspector General’s report on the controversial gun-trafficking operation into Mexico known as Fast and Furious and whether Attorney General Eric Holder should be held ultimately accountable.
“You told me during an interview that you and Mr. Holder did not authorize the Fast and Furious operation….should you fire him?” asked Ramos.
“When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it…Those folks who were responsible have been held accountable. The question now is, how do we move forward with a strategy that will actually work?” responded the president.
Obama handily won the Latino vote last time around and holds a considerable lead now in polls. In the latest Gallup survey of registered Hispanic voters, Obama tops Republican challenger Mitt Romney 66% to 26%.
Needing a heavy Latino voter turnout on Election Day, Obama detailed differences between his campaign and Romney’s on issues important to that group.
“We are now confronted with a choice between two candidates in which the candidate sitting here with you today is committed to comprehensive immigration reform, is committed to the Dream Act, has taken administrative actions to prevent young people from being deported.
“And that stands in contrast with the other candidate who has said he would veto the Dream Act, that he is uncertain about what his plan for immigration reform would be, and who considers the Arizona law the model for nation and who has suggested the main solution for immigration is self deportation,” he said.
Both campaigns are running Spanish language ads in battle ground states with heavy Latino populations, like Florida, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia.
Romney appeared at the forum on Wednesday where he criticized Obama for not delivering on his pledge.
"When I'm president, I will actually do what I promise, I will put in place an immigration reform system that resolves this issue," Romney said.
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