CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The first major address to Latinos at the Democratic National Convention went straight for the jugular of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, riled up a crowd here Tuesday by criticizing Romney's immigration policies, tying him to the much-criticized immigration enforcement practices of Arizona.
"The truth is that Mitt Romney has embraced the racial-profiling policies of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio," Gonzalez told the crowd, which responded with sustained booing.
Romney accepted an endorsement from Brewer, who signed immigration law SB 1070 in 2010. He has refused to say whether he actually supports the law, other than reiterating that he believes states can make their own decisions on such matters. A majority of Latinos are less enthusiastic about Romney because of his views on SB 1070, according to a poll released in July.
At the same time, Romney has praised Arizona for another controversial immigration measure, saying during a debate that the state's employment verification law should be a model for the nation.
Although the Romney campaign has taken pains to avoid saying whether he supports SB 1070, his statements on immigration largely align with the goals of the law. Romney said in January that he supports self-deportation, a strategy of making life difficult for undocumented immigrants until they decide to leave. It's also another phrase for what Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has advised Romney on immigration issues and wrote SB 1070, calls "attrition through enforcement."
Romney gave an address on immigration reform in June and said he supports broad changes to existing law, but without allowing undocumented immigrants currently in the United States a path to citizenship, as Democrats hope to do.
"The truth is that he would separate families that have been here for generations," Gonzalez said of Romney. "The truth is that he has embraced distrust and division at the expense of our American values."
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), another member of the Hispanic Caucus who spoke after Gonzalez, applauded President Barack Obama for his June announcement that some undocumented young people will be given work authorization and deferred action from deportation.
"Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is walking away from us," Velazquez said. "He walks with people who disrespect us and people who divide us.