President Obama attacked presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney over his support for Arizona’s tough immigration law Saturday and pledged to work for comprehensive immigration reform if he wins a second term.
In an interview with the Spanish-language Univision network in Cartagena, Colombia, Mr. Obama called Mr. Romney’s position on immigration “very troublesome.”
“We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. “These are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption.”
The president is wooing Hispanic voters on a three-day trip to Colombia, where he is attending the hemispheric Summit of the Americas, a gathering of more than 30 world leaders. Hispanic voters in the U.S. supported Mr. Obama heavily in 2008, but many of them have been critical of his failure to achieve a major overhaul of U.S. immigration laws as president.
The Arizona law, signed in 2010 by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, gives police the authority to check routinely the immigration status of people suspected of being in the country illegally and to pursue deportation. Supporters of the law said they hope the measure will push illegal immigrants out of Arizona, possibly saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars in education and prison costs and benefit payments.
Asked on Univision whether he would promise to move forward rapidly on immigration reform in a second term, Mr. Obama blamed Republicans for the failure to reach a solution and pledged, “I can promise that I will try to do it in the first year of my second term. I want to try this year.”
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on April 25 on the Arizona law, as justices prepare to rule on the legality of the state’s immigration crackdown. The Obama administration challenged the law and a violation of federal prerogatives and won an order blocking key provisions in lower federal courts. Arizona asked the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of those decisions.
During a GOP presidential primary debate in Arizona in February, Mr. Romney said he would drop the federal government’s lawsuits against the state law “on Day One” if he is elected president.
“I’ll also complete the fence [along the Mexican border], I’ll make sure we have enough Border Patrol agents to secure the fence, and I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers,” Mr. Romney said.