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Romney slams Obama's immigration record but softens tone on illegals

Speaking before an influential Hispanic group Thursday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama has failed to enact immigration reform and offered his own plan, calling for permanent residency for highly skilled college graduates and members of the military and a “high-tech fence to enhance border security.”

But Romney did not address the biggest and most vexing immigration issue: What to do with the 11 million undocumented residents already living in the United States. And he was vague on how to deal with the children of illegal immigrants that a growing number of Republicans say should get some protection.

Overall, however, his tone and proposals marked a dramatic departure from the GOP primary, when he took hard-line immigration positions and attacked his rivals for being soft.

“Some people have asked if I will let stand the president’s executive action,” he said referring to Obama’s announcement last week that he would block deportation of young illegal immigrants. “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.”

His speech before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, was met with tepid applause but signaled his broadest remarks on immigration, which leapt back into focus with Obama’s announcement last Friday.

Story by Alex Leary and Adam Smith here.