(CNN) – Young undocumented immigrants offered a two year deferral from deportation under President Barack Obama will be allowed to remain in the country if Mitt Romney is elected president, the GOP nominee said in an interview published Tuesday.
Previously, Romney had not specified how he would handle the estimated 1.7 million people who could qualify for the new rules, which went into effect in August.
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"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 the interview. "I'm not going to take something that they've purchased. Before those visas have expired, we will have the full immigration-reform plan that I've proposed."
The president's decision allows 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.
When the decision to allow the immigration rule changes was announced in June, Romney did not immediately say whether he would repeal the measure or allow qualifying young immigrants to stay in the country.
In an interview with CBS on June 17, Romney would say only that his administration would seek longer-term solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, and that Obama's new directive was a temporary fix.
"He was president for the last three-and-a-half years and did nothing on immigration," Romney said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Two years he had a Democrat House and Senate, did nothing of a permanent or long-term basis. What I would do, is I'd make sure that by coming into office I would work with Congress to put in place a long-term solution for the children of those that have come here illegally."
Romney said the timing of the shift, coming less than five months ahead of November's general election, pointed to political motives on the part of the president.
"I think the timing is pretty clear, if he really wanted to make a solution that dealt with these kids or with illegal immigration in America, then this is something he would have taken up in his first three-and-a-half years, not in his last few months," Romney said.
As recently as last month, Romney was maintaining his stance on a permanent immigration solution, without saying clearly how he'd proceed with the new rules change.
"I will lead a program that gets us to a permanent solution as opposed to what was done by this president, which was with a few months before an election he puts in place something that is temporary, which does not solve the issue," Romney said in a Univision forum in September.
In the Denver Post interview published Tuesday, Romney continued his criticism of Obama's handling of immigration, saying he had broken his promise to enact immigration reform in his first term.
"I actually will propose a piece of legislation which will reform our immigration system to improve legal immigration so people don't have to hire lawyers to figure out how to get here legally," Romney said. "The president promised in his first year – his highest priority – that he would reform immigration, and he didn't. And I will."
Gabriela Domenzain, director of Hispanic Press for Obama's re-election campaign, wrote in a statement Romney's position "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?"
Both Romney and Obama are campaigning heavily for Latino voters, though polls consistently show the president with a large lead over Romney among the key voting demographic.
Romney has struggled in the past to frame his immigration positions in ways that appeal both to Hispanic voters and the base of the Republican Party. He took a hard line stance on the issue during the Republican primary, but in Tuesday's interview and in his forum with Univision, the candidate has adopted a softer tone.
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.
Later, Romney gave a more detailed version of his stance, telling supporters at a fund-raiser in Florida Republicans needed to offer their own version of the DREAM Act.
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.
CNN's Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.
More LIES Willard!!!!!!! Don't believe Willard!!! He's a criminal for not disclosing his off-shore accounts on his tax returns!!!1
A vote for Romney is a vote for defense spending for war. Halliburton aka Cheney, Karl Rove and company will continue to profit, tanking our economy and putting more of our military men and women in harms way.
Another Etch A Sketch moment for Mitt: "I stand by what I said even though I don’t know what it is what I said but because I said it it must be good so I stand by it." Mitt.
Yet, Mitt doesn't remember what he said before but he stand by it, regardless, even if it was the opposite of what he his saying now.
Flip-Flop Willard is back! They haven't "purchased" anything you heartless empty suit. They're here at no fault of their own and America is the only home they know. How about you self deport yourself to Switzerland or the Cayman Islands. The DREAM Act was pushed in Congress and fillibustered by the republican obstructionists in the Senate. After this election, hopefully those obstructionists will be gone.
The flip flopper strikes again. Does this guy stick to anything? He will do ANYTHING, including lying, to be president.
Didn't he joke about the illegal immigrants on the night he got caught saying that he did not care about the 47 percent?
He's a clown, not a serious leader.
First of all..... this Liar will tell you he will keep this Special Visa for Immigrants in tact.....until he becomes President and then he will deport each and everyone of them....he has flip flopped on so many issues we don't know where he stands or what he will do....and he is a yes man he will do what the tea party and the far right conservatives tell him to do......according to his wife, she has deep concerns about his emotional and Mental Wellbeing and that right there tells me he will not be able to handle the pressures of being President.....I definately don't want him sitting by the RED BUTTON or getting that 3AM phone call in the middle of the night if he has emotional problems or is not Mentally stable.....and who should know better than his wife.....these are her exact words......
Can someone be able to tell me what Romney stands for ?Etch-A-Sketch moment. Unbelievable. What a flip flopper.Never seen a lier like Romney in my good adult life.
"AMNESTY AMNESTY" will be the cry from the xenophobic righties. Flip Flomney strikes again
How can ANY conservative vote for a guy who flip flops this much?!?!? Seriously. What does he stand for? I've been hearing alot of generalizations and big claims but nothing substantial.
Uh oh. Here comes Mr. Mittens shaking his spray can for all it's worth 30 + days before the election. Has this man NO PRIDE whatsoever?
Mr. Mittens no more cares for America's Immigrants than he cares for me, or 47% percent of America. Well, 80% percent of us actually.
Keep shaking that Etch a Sketch, Romney. It's all you've had going to date, and it's all you'll have until November.
Wow.. now He changes his mind to this.. Boy this guy will say anything to get a vote... I'm so confused on what he really stands for and will do.
What happened to self deportation!!
how does this fit in with all of you deport them now, Illegal means illegal types:?
of course this legitimizes the Presidents program, that you all say is unconstitutional
I thought these people should be "self deporting". Is it right, Romney?
This man has changed his tune more times than a teenager changes tunes on their I-Pod! It is right down disturbing how Mitt Romney is on a new side of the fense every other day which in my opinion says a lot about this character or lack thereof! I hope Obama mop the floor with him tonight with straight talk and facts and let Mr. Romney act like a school yard child with corny zingers that only he will find funny!
Republican will never let u Romney do this as usual flip flop.
What will he say tommorrow?
I guess this makes the Presidents plan, legitimate
Are you kidding me? It's to late Robmey, you will NEVER get the Latino vote.
can't you see it, the closer to the election he is moving further away from the republican base
Hmm ! you can`t take it back Mitt remember self deport ASAP.
OMG ! This is AMNESTY ! In the Fox News Alternative Universe, the rivers will start flowing upstream !
Does this guy have a single position he actually believe in enought to keep for any extended period of time. While this is a better, more humane position, how the heck can you trust a thing he says. He can promise one thing and completely change his position overnight.
No values. No strongly held beliefs. No Presidency!!!