After Newt Gingrich said on Wednesday that Mitt Romney shows "no concern for the humanity of" undocumented immigrants, Romney stuck back, accusing the former House Speaker of pandering to the audience of a forum hosted by Univision at Miami Dade College.
When asked by Univision anchor Jorge Ramos about Romney's idea for "self-deportation," Gingrich laughed and said the former Massachusetts governor was out of touch, as further evidenced by his overseas investments. Romney said the entire attack, including ads by Gingrich that call him "anti-immigrant," was "sad and inappropriate."
"I recognize that it's very tempting to come to an audience like this and to pander to the audience and say what you hope people will want to hear," Romney told Ramos. "But frankly I think that's unbecoming of a presidential candidate."
The Gingrich campaign announced on Wednesday afternoon that it will take down radio ads that accuse Romney of being anti-immigrant.
The Republican candidates are attempting this week to soften their rhetoric on immigration, in a bid to appeal to Latino voters in Florida.
On Wednesday, Romney defended his idea of "self-deportation," which he said would essentially make it so difficult for undocumented immigrants to find work that they would be forced to leave the country. He said Gingrich has previously condoned the idea, even though he is now condemning it.
Even when confronted with an undocumented woman who attended one of his campaign events and hopes to attend college, Romney remained on message, arguing against charging undocumented immigrants in-state tuition rates. He suggested that she try "a college that's not as expensive as others," perhaps even Miami Dade College, adding his "guess is it's not terribly exorbitant."
"I'm not punishing her," he said, in response to a question from Ramos about why he wants to punish the children of undocumented immigrants. "She can go to college. There's no requirement that she goes to a college that provides an in-state tuition break."
Romney said he has "compassion" for the children of undocumented immigrants, as well as immigrants abused by coyotes and legal immigrants waiting to enter the United States. Those legal immigrants are his first priority, followed by abused immigrants, he said. Undocumented immigrants who entered as children have done nothing wrong, he added, but did not say what he would do to help them.
Romney, whose father was born in Mexico, laughed when Ramos asked if he would be the first Mexican-American president. "I would love to be able to convince people of that, particularly in a Florida primary," he said. "But I think that might be disingenuous on my part."
At the beginning of the speech, though, he alluded -- perhaps accidentally -- to his own American citizenship, bestowed upon him by his parents.
"My parents gave me a lot of great things," he said in response to a question about how much money he inherited from his father. "They gave me the privilege of being born in this country."
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