(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.
Embracing Obamacare? A gentle immigration policy that honors an Obama commitment?
This guy is just now moving to the center (again for the #th time) and it has got to steam up the righties.
He was supposed to say self deport again and then follow it up with the 20 foot electrified fence and lava moat.
just like when he claimed that he would keep parts of Obamacare if elected, Romney then walked it back once his campaign said he didn't really mean to say that. I fully expect him to do the same with this comment you watch.
Wow...just wow. This is the exact thing that Ted Kennedy was saying in their debates years ago. "Give him a few weeks, and he'll probabaly vote for me!" – Ted Kennedy. Mitt is really a chameleon. If he wins this, this is what will happen......Mitt will mysteriously find the good in and KEEP all of Obama's "failed" policies, change the wording, and put the republican stamp on 'em. The republicans will be FOR all of the bills they were AGAINST under Obama, the economy will rebound, they'll try to take all the credit, middle class and poor conservitives will develope a more severe case of selective amnesia, and we'll be on our way back to the early 1900's.
Desperate much? Besides, he'd just rubber stamp into law anything the GOPers in Congress put in front of him that undoes this kind of promise to immigrants. Hollow promises from a vapid grifter.
Romney does not flip flop, he considers an issue, then he makes a decision
I AM SO TIRED of the "Obama had two years of democratic control" b.s. So, you're saying he should have turned 8 years of damage around in his first two years? That is what that statement says to me. i suppose Romney would say that about the visas so that if elected, he could track them down and deport them?
"The republicans will be FOR all of the bills they were AGAINST under Obama, the economy will rebound, they'll try to take all the credit, middle class and poor conservitives will develope a more severe case of selective amnesia, and we'll be on our way back to the early 1900's."
Hehe...earlier than that. There's this thing about a little war in the mid-1800's that alot of them would like to undo as well....
This jerk is done.... Truth.
Can you say Romney/Ryan = "Situational Ethics" = win at all cost
I used to understand why some working class folks would vote Republican. They had the old religious reasons (gay hatred, anti-abortion, etc.) and they use to Take the moral High gound on a lot of issues. But I see no logic in a normally educated, well informed, worker bee voting Republican. But voting republican is now akin to Working Class and Middle Class Economic treason!
I Dont Believe A Word (This Clown) Romney Says Anymore ! ! !
Scary thing is he still has a good chance to win. America deserve whatever the gop has in store for us.
Not Presidential period. The GOP/Tp Klan knows that they have a puppet in Romneyhood. This is why they want him to win so bad. Just sign the bills. What a wimp. This man is only committed to money for him and his rich compadres. Keep waking up America.
Mr. Obama leads . . . Mr. Romney follows.
Amnesty, amnesty, for illegals.
I have done my part in alerting the GOP racist base.
Mitt Romney says that he will not revoke the special visas that Obama put in place for young illegal immigrants because it is "something they have purchased". So that means they have not "earned it" but they purchased it. I think the Obama campaign should take note of that.
Bet you 10 grand Romney flip/flops on this too
Good morning Tea Party....
"Romney won't revoke young illegal immigrant visas"
How do you like him now? (be honest)
What a wonderful and kind King Romney will be !
Now I understand why people in Mass. denied Mitt Romney second term as their governor and also becoming senator. He has also no chance at all to win there come Nov. 6 They now him very well more than we do.
Who can rely on this man???
Mitt has this little habit, Ted Kennedy reminded people of it before he debated Mitt... Mitt will move closer and closer to his opponents views in order to win. Speaking of Mitt during a race for senate.. Ted said that his opponent had changed his thinking so much in the last few week, he was convinced that giving him (Mitt) 10 more days and he would be voting for Kennedy.
If the young immigrants believe Romney, they need to be deported.
He'll change his mind. DON'T TRUST HIM – HIS WORD IS NO GOOD.
In line to vote early this morning most of the people were democrats. One old nasty stuck-up woman there was not talking to anyone. Imagine she's one of "them". Certainly looked spoiled rotten.
All this campaining, and i still have no clue what this clown will do. for the love of god, pick a position and stick to it, that shows more integrity than you posses?
If anybody still believes anything he says at this point...
1. He now says he's for Obamacare
2. He now says he will be tough on China
3. He says he was for loaning money to GM to help save it
4. He now says that TARP was wrong
5. He now says that he would also have gone into Pakistan and gotten Bin Laden
Mitt needs to tell all his supporters that he along with them need to cast their votes for President Obama.