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Clinton, Obama and Romney court the Hispanic vote.

The two leading Democratic presidential candidates said Sunday, in separate appearances at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) convention in Miami Beach, they would make immigration legislation a priority.

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois both vowed to create a legalization path for the country's 12 million undocumented immigrants if they won the presidency. They made the pledges weeks after an immigration overhaul bill collapsed in Congress.

The bill's defeat has added momentum to voter registration drives aimed at Hispanic communities. Clinton and Obama refer often to the failed effort as they intensify their outreach to Hispanics and appeal to audiences with their immigration messages.

Both Mr. Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat and the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, supported the failed bill and yesterday assured NCLR that they will work to pass a bill as president.

Mr. Obama was the most forceful, promising "in my first term we will make this a priority and get this done." Mrs. Clinton said she couldn't predict an outcome, but would "promise my best efforts."

On the other hand, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking to members of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly — a group that supported the immigration policy overhaul — said that immigration is “at the very foundation of the whole concept of America,” even as he tiptoed around what could be a sticking point in his effort to court Hispanic voters — his opposition to the comprehensive immigration bill that failed in Congress last month.

Mr. Romney said that the debate about the measure had been “mischaracterized” by some people and added that it is “very important that we as a party communicate how much we value immigration.”

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