Romney campaign treads carefully on 'DREAM Act' lawsuit

Mitt Romney's campaign is treading carefully on the issue of a new lawsuit against the Obama administration's deportation deferrals for young illegal immigrants, criticizing Obama for the policy but refusing to say whether or not he would continue the deferrals if he were to become president.

"There is no question that the president's executive action is unprecedented and raises large questions as to whether it is within his authority. The courts will have to sort this out, but this kind of uncertainty is unacceptable as these young people brought here as children are seeking clarity on their long-term status," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams told The Hill when asked about the lawsuit, which seeks to force an end to Obama's executive order that gave a two-year stay on deportations for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children.

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"The president's action ruined a bipartisan effort in Congress to forge a long-term solution for these young people," Williams continued. "Mitt Romney will work with Congress to forge a long-term solution that will supersede the president's stop gap measure and give these young people certainty."

Williams did not say whether Romney would continue Obama's policy or reverse it if he wins the election.

Romney is in a tough spot on the issue, and the new lawsuit could hurt him by refocusing attention on it. During the primary he ran hard to the right on immigration and came out strongly against the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants brought here as children. He's since sought to soften his rhetoric on the issue, but has avoided saying whether or not his administration would continue or overturn the executive order if he becomes president.

The issue is a sensitive one: most of Romney's party base are immigration hard-liners, but he risks alienating Latino voters, a key voting bloc, if he comes off as too hawkish on the issue.

The lawsuit was brought by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the author of Arizona's controversial immigration law. He's also Romney supporter and informal immigration adviser to the campaign who also was instrumental in writing the national party's platform on immigration this week.

Kobach is the lead attorney on the suit, which was formally brought by ten Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and is being financed by the anti-immigration group NumbersUSA. They argue that the executive order "prevents ICE officers, employees, and agents from fulfilling their sworn oath to uphold the law and defend the U.S. Constitution."

Kobach told The Hill that he'd kept the Romney campaign "appraised that the lawsuit was going forward." But he made clear that he was acting alone on the lawsuit and said that he hadn't talked to the campaign "in a two-way fashion about it" and that they hadn't told him whether they supported it or not.