Nationwide, polls show Obama with a large lead over Romney among Hispanic voters.
President Obama and his allies, meanwhile, have made government programs central to their pitch for Hispanic votes.
Theyve also made much of the fact that Romney stands by his call for illegal immigrants to leave the country. He supports Arizona-style immigration laws allowing local police to more easily enforce federal immigration laws. And he opposes the so-called DREAM Act that would give a path to citizenship for to students or military personnel.
Early on, Salinas and Ramos honed in on immigration in particular whether Romney would continue Obamas deferred action policy, which allows undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children to get temporary permission to work or study.
For those that are already here and that are undocumented, that were brought here by their parents and therefore are illegal aliens in this country my view is we should put in place a permanent solution, Romney said.
He name-dropped Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio twice and said immigrants who serve in the military or have advanced degrees should become permanent residents.
Are you going to deport them? Yes or no, Salinas insisted.
Were not going to round up people around the country and deport them, Romney said.
Ramos then pressed Romney on whether he stood by his primary campaign remarks supporting self-deportation and the Arizona law. The audience jeered.
Jorge, I think I just answered the last part of your question, Romney said, to applause. I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home. And thats what I mean by self-deportation ... What I like about the Arizona law is the measure that says were going to have an employment verification system so that employers know who theyre able to hire and who theyre not able to hire.
Is that law a model for the whole country? Ramos asked. Romney demurred.
The reason theres an Arizona law is because the federal government specifically, President Obama didnt solve the immigration problem, he said.
Immigration isnt the top concern for Hispanics its the economy but polls show theyre more sensitive to hard-line positions on immigration, which have become a centerpiece of todays Republican Party.
The nations fastest-growing ethnic group, Hispanics have been flocking to the Democratic Party in the countrys biggest battle ground state, Florida. There are now slightly more active Hispanic voters registered as independents than Republicans.
Hispanics also outnumber African-Americans on the voter rolls for the first time.
Overall, the number of Hispanic voters stands at more than 1.5 million 14 percent of the 11.4 million active-voter rolls an increase of 39 percent in Florida since 2006. In that time, Hispanics registering as Democrats have increased their numbers by 60 percent, Hispanic independents have grown 50 percent and Hispanic Republicans only 12 percent.
But Romney was undeterred, saying later at a Juntos con Romney rally that "this is the party of Sen. Marco Rubio. This party is the natural home for Hispanic-Americans. This is the party of hope and opportunity."
Numbers like that could make it tougher for Romney to carry Florida. Romney suggested as much in May during the caught-on-video fundraiser.
Were having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, Romney said. And if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African-American voting bloc has in the past, why were in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.
The video has already surfaced in two ads from third-party liberal groups attacking Romney.
One ad plays up his remarks about the 47 percent. The other takes umbrage at Romneys joke at the fundraiser in which he said he wished he were considered Hispanic because it would help him win the election. Romneys father was born in Mexico.
Ramos first question of the interview addressed the issue: Your father was born in Mexico. Are you sure youre not Hispanic?
I think, for political purposes, that might have helped me here at the University of Miami today, Romney said. But, truth is, as you know, my dad was born of American parents living in Mexico, but he came back to this country at age 5 or 6.
Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory contributed to this story.