Transcript: Mitt Romney’s remarks on immigration reform at the 2012 NALEO conference

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by Mitt Romney at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) conference in Orlando, Florida on June 21, 2012: 

Mitt Romney addressing the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials on June 21, 2012. SOURCE: naleo.org

“It’s an honor to be amongst so many dedicated elected officials. I come to you as a candidate for the President of the United States of America, and I will govern from the principle that while this is a land of extraordinary diversity there is much more that unites us than there is that divides us.

“Each of us walks a different path in life but we are united by one great overwhelming passion: We love the United States of America. We believe in America. We are one nation under God.

“Today we’re united not only by our faith in America, we’re also united by our concern for America.

“The country we love is at peril, and that’s why I’m running for President.

“Almost four years ago, the American people did something that was very much the sort of thing Americans like to do: We gave someone new a chance to lead, someone who we hadn’t known very long, who didn’t have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place.

“At the time, we didn’t know what kind of President he’d be. It was a moment of crisis for our economy. And when Barack Obama came to office, America wished him well and hoped for the best.

“Three-and-a-half years later, over 23 million Americans are out of work, unemployed, under-employed, or simply quit looking for a job.

“At a time when we should be gaining momentum in the economy, we’re actually seeing us lose a bit of it right now. Job growth slowed, and this week we learned the number of job openings has fallen yet again. And as you know, Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard.

“While the national unemployment is still above 8% and has been for 40 straight months, Hispanic unemployment is at 11%.

“The middle-class under President Obama has been crushed. More Americans are living in poverty today than any point in American history. Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day when President Obama took office.

“Home values have plunged. Our national debt is at record levels. And families are buried under higher prices for things like food and gasoline. And yet the President said the private sector is doing fine. This is more than a policy failure. It’s a moral failure.

“Now, I know the President will say that he inherited the economic crisis, and that’s true. But we shouldn’t allow the challenges he faced four years ago to divert our attention from another important fact.

“The President pursued policies that have made this the slowest recovery since the Great Depression, and he broke promises many people were counting on to build a brighter future. It did not have to be this way.

“Just compare this President’s record with the first term of Ronald Reagan. President Reagan also faced an economic crisis. In fact, in 1982 the unemployment rate peaked at nearly 11%. But in the two years that followed – just two years – he delivered a true recovery: Economic growth and job creation worth three times higher than the Obama economy.

“If President Obama had delivered a real recovery – a Reagan recovery – we would have five million more jobs today. Five million more! The unemployment rate would be about 6%, and our economy would be at least $1 trillion larger.

“Now tomorrow, President Obama will speak here. Of course, that’s the first time he’s spoken here since his last campaign. He may admit that he hasn’t kept every promise. And he’ll probably say that even though you aren’t better off today than you were four years ago, things could be worse. He’ll imply that you don’t really have an alternative. I believe he’s taking your vote for granted.

“I’ve come here today with a very simple message. You do have an alternative. Your vote should be respected, and your voice is more important now than ever before.

“This November, we’re going to make a choice. We could continue along the path we’re on or we could choose a better way.

“Instead of continuing with the policies of the last three-and-a-half years, we could revitalize our free enterprise economy. We can lead the world, as we have in what we invent and build and create.

“And let me make this very clear, this is the only way we can strengthen the middle-class. And this is the only way we can create sustained prosperity.

“Raising taxes to grow government does not grow the middle-class.

“Today, I’m asking you to join me because while we might not agree on everything, we share this same goal, the same vision, and the same belief in American greatness that draws so many people to our shores.

“Liberty’s torch can burn just as brightly for future generations of immigrants as it has burned for immigrants of the past.

“Now, we know our businesses can’t succeed, grow and hire more workers without a more competitive tax system. That’s why I’m going to lower our corporate tax rate and reduce individual marginal tax rates by 20% across-the-board.

“We also know that our businesses and families need affordable and reliable energy. Producing more of our own energy resources, we’ll create jobs in America and generate greater revenues for the county.

“We’ll also help bring manufacturing back to our shores. You’re going to see a manufacturing resurgence if we get that policy right.

“We know our economy can’t grow if we’re mortgaging our future to pay for the big government programs of today. Think about that. We can’t keep on borrowing massively more than we take in without putting the country in peril.

“So, as President, I’ll reign in spending and I will get the budget balanced.

“And I will repeal Obama care. We can’t afford another $2 trillion entitlement. $2 trillion entitlement!

“Everybody likes free stuff but there is no free stuff. When government has to pay, it has to tax the American people or when it borrows from future generations.

“And Obamacare is depressing job growth. If priority number one is jobs, you gotta get Obamacare out of there.

“In one study, 73% of business owners said Obamacare has made it harder for them to hire people. Think of that. Almost three-quarter of small businesses saying that Obamacare is making it less likely to hire people.

“If jobs are your priority, you gotta get rid of Obamacare and put in place real reform that works. Repealing Obamacare, replacing it will give businesses the kind of certainty to expand and to hire and to grow.

“Now, by the way, we could also jump-start our economy by expanding trade in our hemisphere. As you know, however, the President hasn’t completed a single new trade agreement with a Latin American nation. And he’s failed to crack down on countries like China that don’t live by the rules.

“We know our kids can’t succeed if they’re trapped in failing schools, and that’s why as President I will give the parents of every low-income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school.

“When it comes to education, a choice for parents means a chance for every child. And an effective integration system can also strengthen the economy as it has since the nation’s founding.

“Unfortunately, despite his promises, President Obama has failed to address immigration reform.

“For two years, this President had huge majorities in the House and Senate. He was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. Nothing.

“Instead he failed to act until facing a tough re-election and trying to secure your vote.

“Last week, the President finally offered a temporary measure. He called it a ‘stop-gap’ measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election.

“After three-and-a-half years of putting every issue from loan guarantees to his donors to cash-for-clunkers – putting all those things before immigration – now the President has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on day one but didn’t. I think you deserve better.

“Some people have asked if I will let stand the President’s executive order. The answer is 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 stop-gap measures. I’ll work with Republicans and Democrats to build a long-term solution.

“And I’ll prioritize measures - I want you all to also know this. I will prioritize efforts that strengthen legal immigration and make it more transparent and easier.

“And I’m going to address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner. We may not always agree but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it.

“Let me speak about some of the guidelines that I will use in putting together that policy.

“And as you heard me say many times, it’s critical that we re-double our efforts to secure the borders – that means both preventing illegal border crossings and making it harder to illegally overstay a visa.

“We should field enough border patrol agents, complete a high-tech fence, and implement and improve exit verification system.

“Our immigration system should help promote strong families as well – not keep them apart. Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof.

“But today, too many families are caught in a broken system that cost them time and money and entangles them in excessive red tape.

“For those seeking to come to America the right way, that kind of bureaucratic nightmare has to end. And we could do this with just a few common sense reforms.

“As President, I’m reallocating green cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof.

“And we’ll exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents.

“And we’ll eliminate other forms of bureaucratic red tape that keep families from coming together.

“Immigration reform is not just a moral imperative. It’s also an economic necessity.

“Immigrants with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and they drive innovation at a very high rate.

“Immigrants founded or co-founded nearly half of our top 50 venture-backed companies in this country. Nearly half.

“They are nearly 30% more likely to start a business, and that kind of risk-taking is something we need more than ever because new business start-ups in America are at a 30-year low.

“I’ll work with states and employers to update our temporary worker visa program so that it meets our economic needs.

“And if you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here. So I’d staple a green card to the diploma of someone who gets an advanced degree in America.

“We want the best and brightest to enrich the nation with the jobs and technologies they’re going to create.

“Now, we also have a strong tradition in this country of honoring immigrants who join our military, put their lives on the line to keep the country safe.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has naturalized almost 75,000 members of the armed forces. Too many of those patriots died on distant battlefields for our freedom before receiving full citizenship here in the country they called home.

“As President, I will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service. Those who’ve risked their lives in defense of America have earned their right to make their life in America.

“But improving access to legal immigration is only one part of the equation. We must also make legal immigration more attractive than illegal immigration so that people are rewarded for waiting patiently in line.

“That’s why my administration will establish a strong employment verification system so that every business can know with confidence that the people it hires are legally eligible for employment. We can find common ground here, and we’ve got to. We owe it to ourselves as Americans to ensure that our country remains the land of opportunity both for those who are born here and for those who share our values, respect our laws, and want to come to our shores.

“Now, throughout my campaign, I’ve often had the chance to speak about my dad, and how proud I am of him. He was born…to parents – American parents – living in Mexico. When he was five, they left everything behind and started over in the United States. His dad, my grandfather, was a builder and he went bust more than once. My grandfather didn’t make much money. There were times in my dad’s life when he lived in poverty. But my grandfather had big hopes for my dad and tried to help him as best as he could.

“My dad didn’t finish college but he believed in a country where the circumstances of one’s birth were not a barrier to achievement. And he wasn’t afraid of hard work. He held a lot of jobs – putting up plaster boards, selling paint. He was lucky enough to live in America, where hard work can turn aspirations into realities.

“After he became a man in the business world, he got the opportunity to lead a great car company. And ultimately, he became the Governor of a great state – the state of Michigan.

“This is my father’s story. But it could be the story of any American.

“Most of you here today are leaders in your community. You’re here because you’ve benefitted from the land of opportunity and you want to give back to this country and fight for its people so they have the same chance to succeed.

“We are truly one America. Everyone here has made this exceptional nation what it is today.

“This isn’t an election about two people. This is not an election about being a Republican or a Democrat or an independent. This is an election about the future of America.

“I’d ask each of you to honestly look at the last three-and-a-half years and ask whether we can do better. Is the America of 11% Hispanic unemployment the America of our dreams? We can do better.

“We can prosper again with a powerful recovery we’ve all been waiting for. The good jobs that so many people need and above all, the opportunities we owe to our children and our grandchildren. I will do that. I will make that happen with your help and your support.

“Thank you so much. And God bless this great land.

“Thank you.”

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