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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Downtown LA and in Costa Mesa Monday in an effort to woo Latino voters and fundraise weeks before the November election. He spoke before more than 1,400 Hispanic business leaders at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he pledged to pursue "permanent immigration reform." Conan Nolan reports from Costa Mesa for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sept. 17, 2012.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Monday at the group's convention in Los Angeles that he will pursue "permanent immigration reform."
Romney's campaign stop, an effort to reach out to Latino voters, also included an interview with Spanish-language television network Telemundo. The network interviewed President Barack Obama last week.
"The president promised in his first year he would tackle immigration reform," Romney said. "He had a Democratic Congress, including a filibuster-proof Senate and never introduced a bill. I will."
Romney attended a fundraiser Monday night in Costa Mesa where he addressed a secretly recorded video in which the candidate apparently says 47 percent of Americans "are dependent upon government" and "believe that they are victims."
Straying away briefly from planned talking points, Romney conceded Monday night the comments that sparked a firestorm of criticism from media pundits were "not elegantly stated" and "off-the-cuff."
Earlier Monday, Romney spoke about trade, debt and what he called China's unfair trade practices, but devoted the last quarter of his address to immigration.
Romney told the crowd at the JW Marriott L.A. LIVE he plans to work with both parties to address immigration and economic policies that help small-business owners. He accused Obama of "playing politics" by pursuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a program designed to grant work rights to immigrants who came to the United States as children.
Romney's address "demonstrates the important role that Hispanic business plays in our national political conversation," said Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the USHCC.
The crowd also watched a recorded video address from President Obama. Obama discussed the Deferred Action measure in his address, adding that he pursued it because Republicans blocked legislation giving a pathway to citizenship to the young immigrants.
The convention is the largest gathering of Latino business leaders in the United States. The event began Sunday and continues through Tuesday.
"Latinos primarily have been known as Democrats, but I couldn't really tell you why he's not doing well," said Delia Garced with General Electric.
While Romeny has led polls showing voters are confident in his ability to handle the economy, there is a lingering disconnect on border issues.
"The stance that the Republican party has taken on immigration has really created a barrier," said Robert Bard, CEO of Latina Style.
"The Democrats have been successful at inciting Latinos to cast punishing votes," said business consultant Luis Alvarado.
The visit comes as the former Massachusetts governor's campaign plans to release a new round of ads this week and re-focus his appearances on his economic plan. The ads -- "The Romney Plan" and another that characterizes President Obama as the wrong choice for middle-class families -- tout Romney's decades of work in the private sector.
Romney is expected to hold fundraising events in Utah and Texas before heading to Florida for fundraisers later in the week. Obama spoke Monday at campaign events in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.