DENVER – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he would honor temporary work permits for young undocumented immigrants who were allowed to stay in the U.S. because of President Barack Obama's new temporary policy of so-called "deferred action."
In an interview appearing in Tuesday's Denver Post, Romney said that people who are able to earn the two-year visas to stay and work wouldn't see them revoked under his administration. However, Romney did not say whether or not he would undo Obama's plan for future applicants.
I'm not going to take something that they've purchased.
- Mitt Romney, Republican Presidential Candidate
"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. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," Romney told the Post, promising to put a comprehensive immigration reform plan into place before those visas expire.
In June Obama issued Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allows some young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation, a move which Romney criticized by the president for circumventing Congress to make the change a few months before the presidential election.
Three months after Obama announced his plans, Latinos are giving him higher ratings for his handling of immigration, according to a recent Fox News Latino poll. In the poll of 887 likely Latino voters nationwide, 58 percent of respondents said they approve of the job Obama is doing on immigration; 32 percent disapprove.
Before the new policy, many Latinos expressed a sense of having been betrayed by Obama, who had campaigned in 2008 with a promise that he would vigorously push for a comprehensive reform that would include a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants. In a Univision forum last month, Obama said his biggest failure thus far in his presidency was not passing comprehensive immigration reform.
Not only did that not happen, Latinos said in polls and interviews, but the Obama administration pursued immigration enforcement with more zeal than any other administration in recent decades. Under Obama, deportations reached roughly 400,000 annually since 2009, about 30 percent higher than the annual average during the second term of the Bush administration, and about double the annual average during George W. Bush’s first term, according to the Pew Research Center.
During the Republican primary, Romney said he would veto legislation to provide a path to citizenship for some of the young people who benefited from Obama's order.
Throughout the primary campaign, Romney took an aggressive tack on immigration, saying in debates that he approved of "self-deportation," where undocumented workers would choose to leave on their own because they were unable to find work in the U.S. He assailed rival Rick Perry, the Texas governor, for allowing undocumented immigrants to attend Texas state colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates.
Romney also said he would veto the so-called DREAM Act, a bill that proposes a path to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants if they meet certain education or service requirements. Romney has always said he supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who serve in the military.
After rival Rick Santorum dropped out of the primary, leaving Romney the presumptive Republican nominee, the former Massachusetts governor indicated he would review potential legislation from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio that would have allowed some young undocumented immigrants a way to stay in the country.
At a Univision forum last month, Romney said: "I'm not going to be rounding people up and deporting them from the country. ... I will put in an immigration reform plan that solves this issue."
The Denver Post interview comes as Romney and Obama are fighting a heated battle for Colorado, whose significant Hispanic population could determine which candidate receives the state's nine electoral votes.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.