to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to U.S.
citizenship for those young immigrants who attend college or join
the U.S. military. Meanwhile, he said there's no reason to waste
money and effort to deport them.
Obama's new policy will "make our immigration enforcement effort not only more efficient and cost-effective, but also more just," Holder said. "There's no question this action represents a significant and a long overdue improvement of our immigration policy."
U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., addressed the conference lunch ahead of Holder. She, too, praised Obama's actions on immigration and called for passage of the DREAM Act . She also contrasted her views with those of her Republican opponent for U.S. Senate, incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, who doesn't support the DREAM Act and has praised the Arizona law.
"He says he wants to bring it here to Nevada," Berkley said. "Nevada doesn't want the Arizona law. Nevada doesn't need the Arizona law. And Nevada will do just fine without it."
Holder praised Berkley, calling the Democratic supporter of Obama "an extremely effective advocate for the people of Nevada."
"And I think she would make an excellent U.S. senator," he said.
Heller did not attend the La Raza conference. His campaign said he was spending the weekend celebrating his 28th wedding anniversary with his family and campaigning in Reno. Heller is among the Nevada politicians on the conference's honorary host committee, however.
Heller and Romney campaign officials manned booths at the Latino Expo, a free event for Hispanics and other members of the community being held with the conference. Democrats also reached out to the Latino crowd with more than 25,000 people expected to visit the free expo.
In an interview at the expo, Romney's Hispanic adviser, Gutierrez, said Latinos should have a natural affinity for Republicans' conservative policies, including "family, faith and hard work."
Gutierrez criticized Obama for not working on comprehensive immigration reform and only offering Hispanics short-term solutions in an election-year pitch for votes. He said stimulus spending didn't offer long-term job prospects for Americans, including Hispanics who suffer higher rates of unemployment - about 11 percent compared with 8.2 percent overall.
Gutierrez said Obama's offer of two-year work permits for young adult children of immigrants was a "patchwork solution" that didn't solve the long-running undocumented immigrant problem.
The presidential election, Gutierrez said, would come down to who could do a better job at boosting the economy to create jobs and improve the lives of Hispanics and all Americans. He said Romney's business experience makes him more qualified than Obama, a former U.S. senator.
"It's about who can do the job because this country is in trouble," Gutierrez said. "We need the right leadership. This is the biggest CEO job in the world. ... It is obvious that we need a change. We need a positive change."
In recent weeks, Romney has been stepping up his outreach to Latinos, particularly in battleground states such as Nevada where they made up about 15 percent of the electorate in the last election. Four years ago, Obama overwhelmingly won Hispanics in Nevada by a ratio of 3 -to-1 over his GOP presidential foe, John McCain, and he remains popular among Latinos.
In June, Romney named dozens of top Republican Hispanics as national and state advisers to his campaign, including Gutierrez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Gutierrez was commerce secretary for four years under former President George W. Bush.
Sandoval delivered a videotaped welcome to the La Raza conference.
Lisa Navarrete, an adviser to the president of the La Raza organization, said Romney lost a good chance to address Latinos. She said his Hispanic adviser Gutierrez could only come on Saturday and the conference organizers couldn't fit him into the schedule at the last minute.
"We think it was a missed opportunity," Navarrete said. "Our community doesn't know Governor Romney very well. If he wants to engage the community he has to address the community. For us, we're disappointed."
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