Recent attention paid to immigration on the presidential campaign trail reflects the importance of the issue as well as the Hispanic vote.
President Barack Obama has issued an executive order ending the deportations of some young illegal immigrants who were brought to America as children. That is a controversial move that some criticize as an end run around Congress.
For some time, the president has pushed the Dream Act, which would help such young immigrants attain legal status if they have finished high school and either attended college or served in the military. Immigrants who meet certain qualifications can apply for work permits and avoid deportation.
The president said his recent order is not a substitute for legislation or a long-term solution. If elected to a second term, he has promised to focus on a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
Mr. Romney has also spoken about immigration to Latino officials and crowds containing people on both sides of the issue. Mr. Romney has called for increased border security and better employment verification. He told a group of Latino leaders in Orlando, Fla., that he had his own immigration plan that would replace the presidents executive order.
The Republican candidates comments have been criticized by both sides. Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group seeking stronger immigration laws, said Mr. Romney provided few details in a recent speech: On legal immigration, he mentioned the obvious: that the system is broken, but his vision seems to be more add-ons and not going back and fixing the underlying problems.
On the other side, Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, observed: He said some new things about immigration, but the story is what he didnt say. It sort of felt obvious he was ignoring still the Dreamers and what to do with the Dreamers. I think he missed an opportunity to be more specific.
Immigration questions are significant for many people. America has needed comprehensive immigration reform for some time. It has eluded recent administrations.
The growing Hispanic population is a key part of the American electorate. Many Americans will take note of how the candidates address this complex and multifaceted issue. One of them will be expected to act on their pledges after the election.
Getting Congress to move forward will be the challenge.