Mitt Romney tried to explain his "47 percent" gaffe and defend his immigration policies Wednesday evening in a live online with Latino voters, saying, "My campaign is about the 100 percent of Americans."
The first question the Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor got during the forum, which was streamed by the Spanish-language network Univision, put him again in the position of explaining comments from a secretly recorded video at a fundraiser that 47 percent of the country wouldn't vote for him because they depend on government assistance, CBS reported.
Romney said his record in Massachusetts, including improving schools, proves his commitment to the whole nation.
"This is a campaign about helping people who need help," he said. "And right now the people who are poor in this country need help getting out of poverty. The people in the middle class need help because their incomes have gone down every year over the last four years."
Romney had hardly gotten through that question when he was asked about the President Barack Obama's executive order to defer deportation for young illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military. He responded by criticizing Obama for breaking a promise to tackle immigration reform during his first year in office.
"He never even filed a bill. He never tried to fix the immigration system, so it's time to put the politics aside and I will actually reform the immigration system," he said. During his closing remarks, Romney said the issue had been used as a "political football."
But Romney declined to say whether he would continue that policy for two straight questions.
"With all due respect, " host Maria Elena Salinas said, "your reluctance to provide details on a permanent solution has created maybe a perception that you are kind of evading the question."
Finally, Romney said, "We're not going to round up 12 million people, that includes the kids and the parents, and have everyone deported. Our system isn't to deport people. We need to provide a long-term solution."
But he did not specify whether he would extend Obama's executive order.
Romney also tried to backtrack from his rhetoric in the primaries, when he spoke of encouraging "self-deportation."
On Wednesday, he said illegal immigrants would have to "make their own choices as to whether they want to go home."
On the Arizona immigration law, which he once called a model for the nation, he said: "The reason there is an Arizona law is because the federal government and specifically President Obama didn't solve the immigration problem when he came into office, and so states are doing their best to try and solve it state by state and each state tries to solve it in their own way."
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