The Romney campaign has struggled to offer a consistent response to the president's move. Romney has assailed Obama's "broken promises" on immigration in recent days but has focused on the new policy's temporary status as his prime criticism.
"These people deserve to understand what their status will be long term, not just four and a half months," Romney said on Fox News Radio this week. "And that's why I think it's important for me and for Congress to come together to put together a plan that secures the border, that insists that we have an employment verification system and that deals with the children of those who have come here illegally on a long-term basis, not a stopgap measure."
As is typical, Romney intends to focus on the economy when he faces the Latino convention on Thursday. The former Massachusetts governor argues that his economic credentials would benefit all people who have struggled under Obama's leadership in recent years — women, younger voters and Hispanics among them.
Still, Romney's own immigration policy is unclear as he works to distance himself from harsh conservative rhetoric that was common during the extended GOP primary season earlier in the year.
Facing a Rhode Island audience in April, for example, Romney drew large cheers when he said, "We want people to come here legally. And we like it when they come here speaking English."
He did not support the Obama administration's lawsuit challenging Arizona's hardline immigration law. And he said that he would veto the DREAM Act that would have given legal status to some children of illegal immigrants. Romney has refused so far to say whether he would reverse Obama's new policy that does much the same thing, albeit on a temporary basis.
Even before he announced the new rules, Obama was looking to build his support among Latinos, vastly outspending Romney on Spanish-language television and radio. But Romney has released targeted TV and radio ads in Spanish, including some that feature one of Romney's sons who is a fluent Spanish speaker.
Simon Rosenberg, who follows immigration matters as head of the liberal-leaning group NDN, said the president's move on immigration not only helps him energize Latino voters, it also helps cast him as a president willing to take bold steps.
For a Latino community that worried that neither party was doing enough, "they now have a champion," he said. But, he added, "There will be a resonance beyond the Latino community."
Besides the new immigration initiative, the Obama camp has been using the new health care law to appeal to Hispanic voters, a rare use of the signature Obama measure in the campaign.
An ad campaign this week in Nevada, Colorado and Florida focuses on the benefits of the health care law for Hispanics and features Cristina Saralegui, a popular Spanish-language television personality who endorsed Obama this week. She says in the ad that Obama's health care law guarantees that "the great majority of Hispanics" will have access to doctors and hospitals.
Jim Kuhnhenn reported from Washington.
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