This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

SAN DIEGO — Supporters of President Obama are always so helpful in suggesting topics to write about.

They think there is a great column in the fact that Mitt Romney — in one of his incarnations during the Republican presidential primary — promised to veto the DREAM Act if he's elected president. The bill, which would give undocumented students legal status if they went to college or joined the military, has the backing of more than 80 percent of Latinos according to a recent poll by Univision/ABC/Latino Decisions.

They also want to make sure that I caught that Romney has the backing of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of many of the tough but constitutionally suspect immigration laws popping up around the country. Kobach, who boasts that he is heavily involved in the Romney campaign, recently oversimplified the immigration debate at the Conservative Political Action Conference when he said "to create a job for a U.S. citizen tomorrow, deport an illegal alien today."

Finally, they want me to stress the fact that Romney seems to believe that the immigrants of today are inferior to the ones who came to these shores a generation ago. In his acceptance speech after winning the Nevada Republican caucuses, Romney insisted that the immigrants of yesteryear did not come here "for a free ticket" or the "pursuit of government benefits." The insulting inference: Today's immigrants — most of whom hail from Latin America — do come for those reasons.

These are all good topics. Romney — and to a lesser degree, his fellow presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — have behaved reprehensibly during the GOP primary, as they chase after the votes of an anti-immigrant constituency that I'm not sure is as big a portion of their party as they seem to think. I have criticized the Republicans before for their handling of the issue, and I will do so again.

Yet, here is what bothers me: Obama supporters want me to keep Latinos focused on how bad Romney is on immigration — so that they forget how bad Obama is on immigration. The president has broken promises to make reform a priority and broken records in deporting more than 1.2 million illegal immigrants. Obama has been good at one thing, though. However, unfortunately for the administration, it's something that many Latinos consider an unpardonable sin: separating families.

Families like that of Felipe and Marie Montes, who now maintain separate residences in North Carolina and Mexico — but not by choice. According to Colorlines.com, which has been following the story closely, after Felipe was deported, Marie found it difficult to support their three children. So officials with the Allegheny County child welfare department took the children from their home, put them in foster care, and eventually convinced a judge to terminate the mother's efforts to reunite with her kids. Now, rather than send the children to live with their father in Mexico, those officials want to put the children up for adoption. It's a parent's nightmare.

If there is a villain in this story, it seems to be the county officials. But it was the Obama administration — and its failure to live up to a stated policy by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to let parents who face deportation decide what happens to their children — that set this story in motion. And many others like it.

Last year, a report by the Applied Research Center, which publishes colorlines.com, found that, from January to June 2011, the Obama administration deported more than 46,000 parents with U.S.-born children. According to the ARC, which filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to get the statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, that figure represents more than 22 percent of all people deported in the same time period. Under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — specifically, between 1998 and 2007, the last period for which similar statistics are available — only about 8 percent of those deported were the parents of U.S.-citizen children.

You can do all the polling and focus groups you want to determine the issues that Latinos care about most. You'll learn that the concerns include education, the economy, jobs, health care and immigration. But if you want to know about Latinos' values and what they treasure most, the answer is simple: It's the family.

That's why, no matter what else Republicans do wrong on immigration, Obama will never make this right.

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