By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
(CNN) – The presidential candidates discussed immigration at the Univision forum a month ago, but Tuesday night’s debate gave the hot button issues a major prime-time stage, and it wasn’t pretty.
In one of the most tweeted moments, the candidates addressed audience member Lorraine Osorio’s question: “Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards (who) are currently living here as productive members of society?”
The candidates had trouble with Osorio’s name, and people went wild on social media.
Lynda (@Lyngay) October 17, 2012
“This is a nation of immigrants,” GOP nominee Mitt Romney said. “We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of American parents. Ann’s dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American. We welcome legal immigrants into this country.”
Romney said he would implement an employment verification system and punish employers who hire people who have entered the country illegally.
“So for instance, I would not give driver’s licenses to those that have come here illegally, as the president would,” he said. “The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids, I think, should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States, and military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.”
That pathway to citizenship was offered in the DREAM Act, supported by President Barack Obama.
Romney has said in the past that he would veto the DREAM Act. At the Univision forum, he said he would support a path to citizenship for those brought to the United States as children. He did not give details as to what he would do for the remainder of the 1.4 million undocumented immigrants who would qualify for citizenship under Obama’s plan.
Romney stressed that Obama failed to deliver on his promise for comprehensive immigration reform in his first year.
“He had a Democrat House, a Democrat Senate, supermajority in both Houses,” Romney said. “Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come legally and for those that are here illegally today?”
The president responded that he had done everything in his power for comprehensive immigration reform, but “it’s not something Republicans are interested in supporting.”
He said that although Romney claims to support only one portion of the controversial Arizona immigration law that requires Internet-based data to confirm employment eligibility, he used Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of the law, as an adviser.
Romney has no right to discuss immigration when he received endorsement of kris kobach , mitt Romney and #arpaio minions
DeeDee Garcia Blase (@RealDeeDeeBlase) October 17, 2012
Romney is still in favor of “self-deportation,” a policy in which undocumented immigrants are encouraged to leave. He has said he supports making economic conditions so unbearable for undocumented immigrants that they choose to leave the country to find better opportunities.
“What I was saying is, we’re not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented, illegals, and take them out of the nation,” Romney said Tuesday night. “Instead, let – make – people make their own choice. And if they – if they find that they can’t get the benefits here that they want and they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make a decision to go to a place where they have better opportunities.”
Please stop referring to people as ‘illegals’ – people aren’t illegal. They’re undocumented.
Corey Johnson (@CoreyinNYC) October 17, 2012
Many Latinos consider the term “illegal immigrant” to be derogatory. And even conservative Latinos find the use of “illegal” as a noun to be offensive.
Obama and Romney were able to agree on one thing: that targeting and deporting criminals living in this country illegally was important.
@LindaCollins11 …and Obama is our deporter-in-chief, deporting more Latinos than any president in history, including more Latino citizens!
Cafe con Leche GOP (@CafeConLecheGOP) October 17, 2012
A record number of undocumented immigrants – about 400,000 people in 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimates – have been deported under Obama’s watch, for which he has been heavily criticized.