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Multiple issues at play

Mr. Fuentes said Hispanics aren’t single-issue voters, and he said they are embracing Mr. Romney because of his credentials on the economy.

“Small-business owners, especially Hispanic female-owned business, which is the largest growing segment of the small-business community, will relate to his experience and results-oriented approach,” he said. “Immigration is important to Hispanic voters, but not their top priority.”

Mr. Romney has said he would veto the Dream Act, though he does support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrant young adults who promise to serve in the U.S. military. Other than that, he has said he supports no special new citizenship rights for illegal immigrants, instead proposing that they have a grace period to get their affairs in order before going back to their home countries.

He also has said he wants to expand opportunities for legal immigration, particularly for entrepreneurs.

Democrats said they expect to make Mr. Romney — or any Republican nominee — pay in November over the issue.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada hinted to reporters Monday that he saw signs of racism behind Republicans’ moves in recent years. He pointed in particular to Senate Republicans’ effort to block a Hispanic woman, Mari Carmen Aponte, from being confirmed as Mr. Obama’s ambassador to El Salvador.

He said his own race in 2010, when he survived a bruising re-election fight against Republican tea party favorite Sharron Angle, should be a warning to the GOP. Ms. Angle took a stiff stance on illegal immigration, while Mr. Reid rallied Hispanic voters by promising to hold a vote on the Dream Act in the Senate.

“People all over this country saw what happened in Nevada, when someone like me who had been reasonable, and doing something about immigration, tried to do the right thing, and they went after me with such venom,” he said. “That’s the only way I can describe it, and it backfired on them.”