Immigration reform took center stage at second presidential debate
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WASHINGTON – The controversial issue of illegal immigration finally made an appearance in the second presidential debate.
The question raised by an audience member garnered the most tweets of the night.
In response, Mitt Romney repeatedly emphasized the president's failure to fulfill his campaign promise of introducing immigration reform in his first term.
"My view is that this president should have honored his promise to do as he said," said Romney.
President Obama blamed the lack of progress on obstructionist Republicans. He then touted his Deferred Action policy change -- a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students -- and leveled an attack on Romney for his more conservative primary campaign rhetoric.
"He said, 'I will veto the DREAM Act that would allow these young people to have access,'" Obama said about his opponent.
But when it comes to laying out how each would create comprehensive immigration reform and get it through Congress, details were scarce.
"What's the policy framework? What does legalization mean? What does border security mean? But also how will, whether it's Romney or Obama, bring Republicans and Democrats together?" asked Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.
While many Latinos have eased up on criticism of Obama since he announced his Deferred Action plan, some more conservative immigration advocates say the president had his chance and blew it.
"Obama hasn't built those relationships with Republicans; relationships that he needs to push immigration forward," Alfonso Aguilar, the executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said.
What we do know is that both Obama and Romney are essentially on the same page when it comes to border security and deporting undocumented criminals. Where the differences become more glaring is Romney's plan for self-deportation.
"He would design policies, as far as we can tell, to make life so difficult for the undocumented that they would have to make a decision whether or not it was even practical or even humane for them to stay here," said Noorani.
But those on the right call Obama's immigration plan too broad.
"Since we don't have a mechanism for those foreign workers to enter legally and there is a demand, they still come in and they come in illegally," Aguilar said.
Leaving the choice unclear.
The third debate is scheduled for Monday night.