CARTAGENA, Colombia -- In his most specific pledge yet to U.S. Hispanics, President Obama said Saturday he would seek to tackle immigration policy in the first year of a second term. But he cautioned that he would need an amenable Congress to succeed.
"This is something I care deeply about," he told Univision. "It's personal to me." Obama spoke to the network widely watched by Latinos in the United States, while in Colombia for the Summit of the Americas.
Obama said he would work on immigration this year, but said he can't get support from Republicans in Congress. Obama also tried to paint his Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, as an extremist on immigration, saying that Romney supports laws that would potentially allow for people to be stopped and asked for citizenship papers based on an assumption that they are illegal.
Romney aides have said that the former Massachusetts governor supports laws that would require employers to verify the legal status of workers they employ.
"President Obama only talks about immigration reform when he's seeking votes," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
The summit has been a celebration of Latin America's recent economic success, and its leaders have expressed that confidence here by openly criticizing several U.S. policies.
The issues that Obama have most emphasized in his re-election effort -- creating jobs and helping what he has characterized as an imperiled U.S. middle class -- have resonated on a hemispheric scale here, with employment, income inequality and economic potential the dominant themes.
"There is a common denominator among all of us, one that we should keep in our head as we make decisions, said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, sitting between Obama and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff at a Saturday forum of business leaders. Surveys would show, Santos said, that unemployment is probably the biggest public concern across the region.
"If we find these policies and work together, it will allow us all to generate more employment, in Colombia, in the U.S., in all of the Americas," Santos said. "The biggest benefit we can bring to people is jobs."