DENVER - Mitt Romney says he will not take away the two-year visas given to children of undocumented immigrants under an executive order by President Obama earlier this year, despite having called the measure a politically-motivated "stop gap" at the time.
"The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid," Romney said in an interview with the Denver Post.
"I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," Romney told the paper. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."
This appears to be a further softening of the Republican nominee's immigration stance, which has gone from promoting an idea of "self-deportation" to one that is less aggressive. Last month at a Univision "Meet the Candidates" forum in Miami Romney said that he wasn't going to "round up people around the country and deport them."
But even then, Romney criticized Obama's executive order announced in June, which stopped the deportation of as many as 800,000 young people who had lived a crime-free life in the U.S. for five straight years and instead allowed them to apply for a these two-year visas that could be renewed.
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Speaking at the Univision forum last month, Romney derided Obama's executive order, saying, "With a few months before an election he puts in place something that is temporary, which does not solve this issue. I will solve it in a permanent basis consistent with those principles."
A campaign official today said Romney's remarks to the Post were consistent with his messaging, saying Romney has always said he would replace the president's executive order with his own permanent reforms and that his remarks to the Denver Post are in line with that.
Romney will not reverse the visas, but before they are expired his own more permanent reforms will be in place, the official said.
When Obama issued his executive order, Romney told New Hampshire television station WMUR that he believed the executive order was an election year ploy to garner support from Hispanic voters by the president. "He didn't deal with it at a time when he had the ability to put into place say long term solutions," Romney said. "And now he's putting into place a stop gap idea and we'll see how that works out, but my guess is what we really need to have, if I'm president, is a long term solution to this and other issues that relate to immigration."
When later pressed on whether he would reverse Obama's order, Romney turned to get on his campaign bus and ignored the question.
In the following week Romney again refused to say whether he'd reverse the order. "Some people have asked if I will let stand the president's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure," Romney said at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, adding that he "won't settle for a stop-gap measure."
Issue of undocumented Immigration Took Center Stage During GOP Primary
During the Republican primary, Romney said that he would veto the Dream Act - which would allow some undocumented immigrants meeting certain criteria to have permanent residency - if he was elected, but maintained that he would allow for one of the proposal's provisions that allows servicemen and women to gain permanent residency in the U.S.
And in a series of debates that included Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney went head-to-head on the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to benefit from in-state tuition rates.
Perry accused Romney of "not having a heart," while Romney countered that believing undocumented immigrants should not get less expensive education than those here legally means "you have a heart and a brain."
Romney has since gone on to promote his idea of an e-verify system, rather than his self-deportation remarks, that would allow employers to be sure the workers they are hiring are in the country legally.
Update at 10:58 a.m. ET - President Obama's campaign released the following statement from Director of Hispanic Press Gabriela Domenzain in reaction to Mitt Romney's latest comments regarding deferred action for the kids off undocumented immigrants:
"Romney's latest immigration pivot raises more questions than it answers. He still has not said whether he would continue the Administration's policy that provides a temporary reprieve from deportation for young people who were brought here through no fault of their own. Would he side with his extreme anti-immigration advisors and repeal this measure? What would he do with those who qualify for deferred action but haven't received it? Would he deport those who have received a deferment when the program expires after two years? We know he called the DREAM Act a 'handout' and that he promised to veto it - nothing he has said since contradicts this and we should continue to take him at his word."