(CNN) – President Barack Obama's senior adviser maintained Sunday the White House's decision to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants was in no way designed to curry favor within the Latino community months ahead of November's general election.
David Plouffe, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," said the move was one in a series of steps already taken to allow the Department of Homeland Security greater discretion in enforcing America's immigration laws.
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"This is not a political move," Plouffe told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "It builds on steps we've already taken."
Pressed on the timing of the decision – less than five months from a general election in which Latinos could play a deciding role – Plouffe said the politics of the move were not yet clear.
"Who knows how the politics will turn out," Plouffe said. "This decision was the right decision. We'll see. I've ceased making predictions on things because we'll see how they turn out."
Obama won more than two-thirds of Latino voters in 2008, and polls show him leading his Republican opponent Mitt Romney among the demographic in 2012. Latino voters are considered key to winning the 2012 presidential election since they make up a large, growing chunk of the American electorate. They also represent a significant part of the population in several important swing states, including Florida, Nevada and Colorado.
Mobilizing members of the Latino community to vote, however, will remain a challenge for Obama as he enters the heat of the general election campaign. A study from the Pew Hispanic Center from the 2010 midterm elections indicated that while Latinos comprise an increasing chunk of the eligible American electorate, their representation at the polls is lower than their representation in the general population.
Obama's opponents have claimed the timing of Friday's decision revealed carefully calculated politics designed to mobilize his base of Latino supporters. They also say Obama, in bypassing Congress, ignored the Constitutional requirements of lawmaking.
Plouffe said Sunday the new immigration directive was within the power of the White House.
"This is fully within our ability," Plouffe said. "Again, this was an enforcement discretion decision. This is not amnesty. This is not citizenship. This gives these hardworking kids, who are here through no fault of their own, who are staffing our labs, start our businesses, serve in our military, a two-year period to apply for work authorization."
Plouffe criticized Romney for his immigration stance, pointing to the Republican's promise to veto the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would offer a path to citizenship for minors in the country illegally, providing they served in the armed forces or attended college. The initiative has not gained enough support to pass Congress despite several attempts.
"We need a permanent fix, we agree," Plouffe said, making clear the new rules announced Friday did not constitute such a fix. "The only way to do that if for Congress to pass the DREAM act. Sadly, Governor Romney has said he would veto the DREAM act."