Le Mars, Iowa (CNN) - GOP candidate Mitt Romney pledged Saturday to veto any effort by Congress to create a path to citizenship for young adults in the United States illegally.
Romney's declaration was not out of step with previous statements he has made about the issue, but it appeared to be the first time the candidate directly said he would veto a congressionally-backed effort.
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"The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it, and the answer is yes," Romney said in response to a query from the audience of roughly 200 at The Family Table in Le Mars.
The DREAM Act 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.
Romney said Saturday he would support a path to residency - not citizenship - for those who served in the military, but would not support other DREAM Act proposals.
"I'm delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents of this country," he said. "For those who come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits I find to be contrary to the idea of a nation of law."
A campaign aide said Romney opposed the DREAM Act provisions which would grant a path to citizenship for people who complete high school and two years of post-secondary education or those which allow states to grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has come under fire from conservatives for supporting Texas legislation that granted in-state tuition for the children of some illegal immigrants.
The Democratic National Committee released a statement Saturday seizing on the comments.
"Mitt Romney has shown once again that he is out of touch and far to the right of even members of his own party, and that he would not represent the best interest of middle class Americans, those still trying to reach the middle class, and Hispanics in the country," said DNC Senior Advisor for Hispanic Affairs, Juan Sepúlveda.
Both parties are courting Hispanic voters, a growing voting bloc, in the run-up to the 2012 elections.