LOS ANGELES—Mitt Romney made a direct appeal to Hispanic voters on Monday, arguing they haven't benefited from President Barack Obama's economic policies and, if given the chance, he would work with both parties to "permanently fix our immigration system."
In a speech billed by Romney aides as an unofficial reset to his campaign, the Republican presidential nominee reiterated themes he's mentioned before on the campaign trail, arguing that Obama's policies haven't made things better for Americans, especially Hispanics.
"In 2008, candidate Obama promised us a world of limitless hope. What we got instead is a world where hope has painful limits—limits that make it harder to start a business, to grow a business, or to find a job," Romney declared.
While he noted "no one is exempt from the pain of this economy," Romney cited statistics showing the unemployment rate among Hispanics is higher than the national average.
Romney argued that Republicans can turn things around, describing the GOP as a "party of prosperity" and "the party that will restore America's prosperity."
"I am convinced that the Republican Party is the rightful home of Hispanic-Americans," he said.
On immigration, Romney slammed Obama's decision in June to allow the children of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States and work without fear of deportation as a purely political move. He argued efforts to offer amnesty "will make it harder, not easier, to strengthen" the nation's immigration system.
"Instead of playing immigration politics with these children, I will pursue permanent immigration reform," Romney said, "and I will start by ensuring that those who serve in our military have the opportunity to become legal, permanent residents of the country they fought to defend. Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America."
Romney vowed to work with both Democrats and Republicans to achieve "a legal immigration system that is fair and efficient," and would start by strengthening security on the nation's borders. He said he would also "shift" diversity visas to "instead bring together immediate family members" and would allow immigrants who achieved an "advanced degree" to stay here.
"I want them to stay here, so I'd staple a green card to their diploma," Romney said. "America is a nation of immigrants, and immigration is essential to our economic growth and prosperity. One million immigrants legally enter America every year—the largest number of any country in the world. I like that," he added. "I want to preserve our heritage of robust legal immigration. And I want to make sure that those who abide by the law and wait in line to immigrate here legally are not at a disadvantage."
The GOP has stepped up its efforts to woo Latino voters ahead of November. Polls show Obama has a significant advantage among Hispanic voters, leading Romney by 42 points, according to a poll released by Latino Decisions on Monday.
The GOP candidate also used his speech to take a shot at Obama's decision to bring trade sanctions against China, suggesting the move was motivated by politics.
"President Obama may think that announcing new trade cases less than two months from Election Day will distract from his record, but the American businesses and workers struggling on an uneven playing field know better," Romney said. "If I'd known all it took to get him to take action was to run an ad citing his inaction on China's cheating, I would have run one long ago."