SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Mitt Romney told donors at a fundraising lunch here that he wished the Supreme Court had given "more latitude to the states not less" in its ruling on Arizona's immigration law and characterized the situation as a "muddle."
"Now you probably heard today there was a Supreme Court decision relating to immigration and, you know, given the failure of the immigration policy in this country, I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to the states not less," said Romney, in his first public statement on this morning's Supreme Court ruling, which upheld part of the Arizona's immigration law that allows those but overturned others. "And there are states now under this decision have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration laws."
But Romney, speaking to a group of about 200 donors at a fundraising luncheon at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, still did not specify whether he agreed with the state's controversial immigration law or even parts of it.
Rather, he said more action by the president earlier in his term could have avoided the need for Arizona's law.
"It didn't have to be this way," said Romney. "The president promised in his campaign that in his first year he would take on immigration and solve our immigration challenges, put in place a long term program to care for those that want to come here legally, to deal with illegal immigration, to deal with securing our borders."
"All these things he was going to in his first year. He had a Democrat House and a Democrat Senate, but he didn't do it. Isn't it time for the American people to ask him: Why?" Romney asked, to a heavy applause by the audience.
"One thing I can tell you, if I'm President of the United States, I will lead," said Romney. "I will lead on this issue, among others. In my first year I will make sure we actually do take on immigration, we secure our border, we make sure that we grow legal immigration in a way that provides people here with skill and expertise that we want. This is an issue that has to be tackled, I will tackle it, not with stop-gap measures but with the kind of work that's done across the aisle by people of good faith."