Florida is considered a 'battle ground' state in US politics and could be crucial in the race for the presidency.
27 January 2012
Romney and Gingrich clash over US immigration claims
In a fierce debate in Florida before the state's primary, Republican nominee front runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney took the chance to insult each other with the most intense exchanges concerning each other's US immigration policies.
Mr Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, accused his opponent of being against US immigration; a claim Mr Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, said was "repulsive".
The Florida primary is seen as a key test for the candidates, whose immigration policies will be put to the test for the first time. Florida is home to a substantial number of Latino and Hispanic voters who could be the difference between a Republican win in November's election, or a second term for incumbent Democratic president Barack Obama.
Mr Gingrich had been running an advertisement in Spanish which labelled Mr Romney as 'anti-immigrant' but withdrew it after criticism from fellow Republican, Senator Marco Rubio. However, when asked if Mr Romney was still the most "anti-immigrant candidate", Mr Gingrich replied "I think out of the four us, yes".
Mr Romney was immediately given the opportunity to respond to these claims and said "that's just simply inexcusable, and actually Senator Marco Rubio came to my defence and said that ad was inexcusable, inflammatory and inappropriate.
"Mr [Gingrich] I'm not anti-immigrant, my father was born in Mexico and my wife's father was born in Wales, they came to this country; the idea that I'm anti-immigrant is repulsive."
Mr Gingrich's proposed policy of granting long time illegal immigrants with no history of crime a US visa has been met warmly by many voters while Mr Romney's idea of imposing a scheme of "self-deportation" has been met with some ridicule.
The debate then turned to financial matters, with Mr Romney and Mr Gingrich both accusing the other of profiting from mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose collapses led to the housing crisis.
The race also includes former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texan Representative Ron Paul. Although they are both seen as outside chances for the nomination, Mr Santorum's comments that the debate was becoming side tracked by "petty personal politics" were met with applause.
The Florida primary takes place on the 31st January.
The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.