Ahead of Wednesday’s first presidential debate, Mitt Romney has said that he would not repeal President Obama’s new policy granting a two-year hold on deportation for many young illegal immigrants, The Denver Post reports. After months of refusing to answer the question of how he would deal with the estimated 1.7 million young people who qualify for the Obama administration’s policy, Mr. Romney has now said that he would honor the special work permits until he could enact permanent reform.
“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,” Mr. Romney told the Post. “Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration-reform plan that I’ve proposed.”
In June, President Obama’s decision to establish the new policy promised to achieve some of the goals of the Dream Act, which has failed to pass in Congress. While the Dream Act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth, or “dreamers,” the administration’s plan provides two-year work permits for those who meet certain requirements, such as not having a criminal record and graduating from an American high school or serving in the military. The policy went into effect in August.
Mr. Romney, meanwhile, has faced criticism from both the Democratic and GOP camps over comments he made in January suggesting that immigrants should “self-deport.” In December, Mr. Romney said he would veto the Dream Act if elected, while supporting a path to residency for those who served in the military.
In the interview with the Post, Mr. Romney continued to criticize the Obama administration for failing to enact immigration reform.
“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,” Mr. Romney said. “The president promised in his first year, his highest priority, that he would reform immigration and he didn’t. And I will.”
Correction (1/22/2013, 6:53 p.m.): This post originally misstated the nature of President Obama’s decision last year to defer efforts to deport students who are in the United States illegally. The action was technically a directive from the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, not an executive order by the president. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.