DENVER (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would end an Obama administration policy allowing some young illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work, though anyone already granted a reprieve from possible deportation wouldn't see that permission revoked.
Romney told The Denver Post on Monday that people who are able to earn the two-year reprieves to stay and work wouldn't be in danger of deportation if he is elected. His campaign later clarified that while Romney would honor permission to stay as granted under President Barack Obama, a Romney administration wouldn't grant such permission.
Obama announced in June that he would prevent deportation for some people brought to the United States illegally as children. Applicants must not have a serious criminal record and must meet other requirements, such as graduating from high school or serving in the U.S. military. At the time, Romney criticized Obama for circumventing Congress and changing the policy a few months before the presidential election.
The Obama campaign criticized Romney as "extreme." Spokeswoman Gabriela Domenzain said Romney "is against any sensible solution to fix our broken immigration system."
Romney's campaign clarified his position ahead of Wednesday's presidential debates and in the wake of the Republican's Monday interview with the Post.
"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 said, promising to put a comprehensive immigration reform plan into place before those visas expire.
Throughout the Republican primary, Romney took an aggressive tack on immigration, saying in debates that he approved of "self-deportation," in which 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 illegal immigrants to attend Texas state colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates.
Romney also said he would veto the so-called DREAM Act, legislation that would have allowed a path to citizenship for non-American-born children of illegal immigrants if they meet certain education or service requirements. Romney has always said he supports a path to citizenship for illegal 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 Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that would have allowed some young illegal immigrants a way to stay in the country. To date, Rubio has not offered such legislation in the Senate.