(CNN) – President Barack Obama's reelection campaign unveiled a new "Latinos for Obama" initiative Wednesday and sought to portray Republicans as pushing "snake oil" policies harmful to Latinos.
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said Republicans – including the party's presidential contenders – spoke on immigration using "a pejorative language that goes directly to our community."
"The reality is we look at this as the civil rights issue of our time," Menendez said on a conference call with reporters. "All of us who are United States citizens, even those who are legal permanent residents - it's not that we individually have a problem with immigration, but millions of our family members and others in our communities do."
Republicans, he said, are "fundamentally wrong" on issues important to Hispanic voters, including the DREAM act, a path to citizenship for young people who pursue military service or higher education which has failed several Congressional attempts. The bill is favored by more Democrats than Republicans, and likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney has said he favors a proposal which allows for permanent residency, rather than citizenship.
Menendez said an Obama victory, plus a strong showing in House and Senate races, would provide Democrats "a good chance of getting comprehensive immigration reform done in the early part of the next administration of President Obama."
Menendez was joined by San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julian Castro, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, and Obama campaign co-chair Lynette Acosta.
Castro criticized Romney for touting a strict Arizona immigration bill, saying he would be "the most extreme nominee that the Republican Party has ever had on immigration."
"I think you see a model in Arizona," Romney said in a CNN debate. "They passed a law here that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e- verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally."
The Obama campaign said Wednesday they were airing Spanish language television and radio advertisements in the battlegrounds of Colorado, Florida, and Nevada.
On Monday, the Republican National Committee announced state directors for six swing states who will lead Republican efforts to earn Latinos' votes. The states are Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.
Exit polling from the 2008 election shows Obama winning 67% of the Hispanic vote. with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona taking 31%.