(CNN) – More than five hours after news broke of President Barack Obama's shift in immigration rules, his Republican challenger for the White House said the United States needed a longer term solution to the problem.
"I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault of their own is an important matter to be considered, and should be solved on a long term basis so they know what their future would be in this country," Romney said after a campaign stop in Milford, New Hampshire.
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The president's decision will allow people younger than 30 who came to the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and were successful students or served in the military to apply for a two-year deferral from deportation.
Romney said Obama's move puts a damper on development of a longer-term plan.
"I think the action that the president took today makes it more difficult to reach that long term solution because an executive order is, of course, a short term matter and can be reversed by subsequent presidents," Romney said.
Obama's immigration policy is a directive from the Department of Homeland Security, rather than an executive order, though it could still be reversed by future presidents. Republicans have sometimes criticized Obama for issuing executive orders, saying he's ignoring the Constitutional requirements of lawmaking by bypassing Congress.
The GOP White House hopeful continued by praising Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a campaign surrogate and the topic of frequent speculation for Romney's vice presidential pick.
"I would like to seek legislation that deals with this issue and I happen agree with Marco Rubio as he looked at, considered this issue, he said that this is an important matter that we have to find a long tem solution," Romney said.
Romney, who recent polls have shown facing a sizable deficit among Latino voters, has made attempts at reaching out to the important and growing voting bloc. In April, he attended a business roundtable in Tempe, Arizona, and told participants he would look for ways to assist young people in the United States illegally.
"I'm not worried about our generation," Romney said in April. "I'm worried about the youngsters here. They're bright, they can help carry this country forward in a way previous generations have and I think they do need some assistance and some recognition for the work they are doing in school."
In December, Romney said he would veto the DREAM Act if he were president, saying instead he would support a path to residency – not citizenship – for those who served in the military, but not 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."
Later, Romney gave a more detailed version of his stance, tell supporters at a fund-raiser in Florida Republicans needed to offer their own version of the DREAM Act.
"We're going to be able to get Hispanic voters," Mr. Romney said at the private event, which was overheard by a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. "We're going to overcome the issue of immigration."
Rubio has already offered his own version of the act that would not provide citizenship, but instead give legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States by their parents when they were minors.
Romney has not come out in support of Rubio's measure, saying only that the two have spoken about the proposed legislation.
"He [Rubio] and I have spoken about his thinking on his version of a different act than the DREAM Act that's been proposed in the Senate," Romney said in April at a campaign event in Pennsylvania.
He continued, "The one that's been proposed in the Senate creates a new category of citizenship for certain individuals. The Senator's proposal does not create that new category but instead provides visas for those that have come into the country that came in as young people with their families."
At a Republican presidential debate in January, Romney said he favored a system of "self-deportation," a policy that involves making economic conditions so difficult for undocumented workers that they choose to leave the country to find better opportunities.
That stance was derided both by Democrats and his Republican rivals. Then-candidate Newt Gingrich said it was unrealistic to think immigrants would leave the country voluntarily.
"You have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic $20 million income for no work to have some fantasy this far from reality," Gingrich said in an interview with Univision. "For Romney to believe that somebody's grandmother is going to be so cut off that she is going to self-deport, I mean this is an Obama-level fantasy."
Romney has said he supports building a border fence, saying such a move was necessary to prevent an influx of illegal immigrants.
"I believe that to protect legal immigration, we have to stop illegal immigration," Romney said in January. "And for that reason, I would in fact build a fence, and I would have enough border security agents to make sure that we are able to protect the border, and I will put in place a system that allows employers to know who's here legally and not."
Obama's campaign Press Secretary Ben LaBolt wrote off the Republican's remarks in a statement Friday.
“During the primaries, Governor Romney called the DREAM Act a handout and said he would veto it," LaBolt wrote. "His ‘solution’ to our immigration challenges was self-deportation. Today he continues to refuse to express support for legislation that lets children who were brought to the U.S. and want to contribute by pursuing higher education or serve in the military stay in America."
Bill Burton, senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action, echoed LaBolt.
"Mitt Romney says immigrants come to American because they 'are looking for a free deal,' he calls the DREAM Act a 'handout' while promising to veto it, and he boasts about being more extreme that John McCain, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich," Burton wrote. "Instead of proposing any ideas to reform immigration, Mitt Romney is more interested in questioning the character and motives of families who are working towards the American Dream."