Immigration was one of the most important issues discussed in tonight's debate. It first came up when President Obama compared Romney's immigration positions to President Bush's policies:



But the last point I want to make is this. You know, there are some
things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush
didn't propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced
comprehensive immigration reform. He didn't call for self-deportation.




Romney later pointed out President Obama's 2008 promise on introducing immigration reform legislation.
But the real substance came up later during this exchange:



Lorraine Osorio has a question for you about a topic we have not...


OBAMA: This is for Governor Romney?


CROWLEY: It's for Governor Romney, and we'll be right with you, Mr. President. Thanks.


ROMNEY: Is it Loraina?


QUESTION: Lorraine.


ROMNEY: Lorraine?


QUESTION: Yes, Lorraine.


ROMNEY: Lorraine.


QUESTION: How you doing?


ROMNEY: Good, thanks.


QUESTION: Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants
without their green cards that are currently living here as productive
members of society?


ROMNEY: Thank you. Lorraine? Did I get that right? Good. Thank you
for your question. And let me step back and tell you what I would like
to do with our immigration policy broadly and include an answer to your
question.


But first of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people
coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of
American parents; Ann's dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation
American. We welcome legal immigrants into this country.


I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined. I
want it to be clearer. I don't think you have to -- shouldn't have to
hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also
think that we should give visas to people -- green cards, rather, to
people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world
with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to
their diploma, come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure our legal
system works.


Number two, we're going to have to stop illegal immigration. There
are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those
who've come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty
to those who have come here illegally.


What I will do is I'll put in place an employment verification system
and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here
illegally are sanctioned for doing so. I won't put in place magnets for
people coming here illegally. So for instance, I would not give driver's
licenses to those that have come here illegally as the president would.


The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids, I think,
should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United
States and military service, for instance, is one way they would have
that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.


ROMNEY: Now when the president ran for office, he said that he'd put
in place, in his first year, a piece of legislation -- he'd file a bill
in his first year that would reform our -- our immigration system,
protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration. He didn't do it.


He had a Democrat House, a Democrat Senate, super majority in both
Houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have
provided an answer for those that want to come legally and for those
that are here illegally today? What's a question I think the -- the
president will have a chance to answer right now.


OBAMA: Good, I look forward to it.


Was -- Lorranna -- Lorraine -- we are a nation of immigrants. I mean
we're just a few miles away from Ellis Island. We all understand what
this country has become because talent from all around the world wants
to come here. People are willing to take risks. People who want to build
on their dreams and make sure their kids have an even bigger dreams
than they have.


But we're also a nation of laws. So what I've said is we need to fix a
broken immigration system and I've done everything that I can on my own
and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fix the
system.


The first thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration
system, to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler and cheaper for
people who are waiting in line, obeying the law to make sure that they
can come here and contribute to our country and that's good for our
economic growth.


They'll start new businesses. They'll make things happen to create jobs here in the United States.


Number two, we do have to deal with our border so we put more border
patrol on the -- any time in history and the flow of undocumented works
across the border is actually lower than it's been in 40 years.


What I've also said is if we're going to go after folks who are here
illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals,
gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students,
not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out
how to feed their families. And that's what we've done. And what I've
also said is for young people who come here, brought here often times by
their parents. Had gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag.
Think of this as their country. Understand themselves as Americans in
every way except having papers. And we should make sure that we give
them a pathway to citizenship.


And that's what I've done administratively. Now, Governor Romney just
said, you know he wants to help those young people too, but during the
Republican primary, he said, "I will veto the DREAM Act", that would
allow these young people to have access." His main strategy during the
Republican primary was to say, "We're going to encourage
self-deportation." Making life so miserable on folks that they'll leave.
He called the Arizona law a model for the nation. Part of the Arizona
law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they
suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and
check their papers.


You know what? If my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they're
not a citizen, I don't want -- I don't want to empower somebody like
that. So, we can fix this system in a comprehensive way. And when
Governor Romney says, the challenge is, "Well Obama didn't try." That's
not true. I have sat down with Democrats and Republicans at the
beginning of my term. And I said, let's fix this system. Including
Senators previously who had supported it on the Republican side. But
it's very hard for Republican's in Congress to support comprehensive
immigration reform, if their standard bearer has said that, this is not
something I'm interested in supporting.


CROWLEY: Let me get the governor in here, Mr. President. Let's speak to, if you could...


ROMNEY: Yes.


CROWLEY: ...the idea of self-deportation?


ROMNEY: No, let -- let -- let me go back and speak to the points that the president made and -- and -- and let's get them correct.


I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the nation in that
aspect. I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law, which is --
which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able
to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that
that was a model for the nation. That's number one.


Number two, I asked the president a question I think Hispanics and
immigrants all over the nation have asked. He was asked this on
Univision the other day. Why, when you said you'd filed legislation in
your first year didn't you do it? And he didn't answer. He -- he doesn't
answer that question. He said the standard bearer wasn't for it.


I'm glad you thought I was a standard bearer four years ago, but I wasn't.


Four years ago you said in your first year you would file legislation.


In his first year, I was just getting -- licking my wounds from having
been beaten by John McCain, all right. I was not the standard bearer.


My -- my view is that this president should have honored his promise to do as he said.


OBAMA: I do want to make sure that -- I do want to make sure that we
just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn't referring to
Arizona as a model for the nation. His top adviser on immigration is the
guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it; not E-Verify, the
whole thing. That's his policy. And it's a bad policy. And it won't
help us grow.


Look, when we think about immigration, we have to understand there
are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of
promise. And they provide us energy and they provide us innovation and
they start companies like Intel and Google. And we want to encourage
that.


Now, we've got to make sure that we do it in a smart way and a
comprehensive way, and we make the legal system better. But when we make
this into a divisive political issue, and when we don't have bipartisan
support -- I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get
comprehensive immigration reform done, and we can't...


ROMNEY: I'll get it done. I'll get it done. First year...


OBAMA: ... we can't -- we have not seen Republicans serious about this issue at all. And it's time for them to get serious on it.


CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me move you on here please. Mr. President, (inaudible).


OBAMA: This used to be a bipartisan issue.



I think Governor Romney damaged his position even more with Hispanic voters, if that's possible. He rudely cut off Candy Crowley when she asked about his "self-deportation" promise, he referred to illegally present immigrants as "illegals" and he doubled down on the "no amnesty" commitment. His only effective argument was going after the President for not pursuing immigration reform sooner, but this only opened the door for the President to recite all of the immigration accomplishments he's had and reminding the public that he's had to do everything administratively because the Republican Party led by Mitt Romney is so anti-immigration.