By Justin Sink
Romney then praised a plan being developed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who said earlier this year he'd introduce a scaled-back version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would offer legal resident status for illegal immigrants who had avoided arrest and either joined the military or enrolled in college. Romney had not previously commented on Rubio's proposal.
"I'd like to see legislation that deals with this issue," Romney said. "And I happen to agree with Marco Rubio, as he said this is an important matter, we have to find a long-term solution, but that the president’s action makes reaching a long-term solution more difficult. If I’m president, we’ll do our very best to have that kind of long-term solution that provides certainty and clarity for the people who come into this country through no fault of their own by virtue of the action of their parents."
In fact, Romney's statement largely echoed a statement released by Rubio earlier Friday.
"There is broad support for the idea that we should figure out a way to help kids who are undocumented through no fault of their own, but there is also broad consensus that it should be done in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future," Rubio said Friday. "This is a difficult balance to strike, one that this new policy, imposed by executive order, will make harder to achieve in the long run."
Immigration has been a difficult issue for the Republican hopeful, who said during the GOP primaries that he would not support the DREAM Act. But Hispanic voters, who will play an important role in several swing states including Colorado, Florida, and Nevada, overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act, and polls show Romney faces a daunting deficit within that demographic.
Romney has steadfastly avoided the topic of immigration on the campaign trail since clinching the nomination, but his hand was forced after the president's announcement Friday morning.
Bill Burton, the former White House adviser who now runs the Super PAC supporting the president's re-election, issued a statement Friday knocking Romney's response.
"Mitt Romney says immigrants come to American because they 'are looking for a free deal,' he calls the DREAM Act a 'handout' while promising to veto it, and he boasts about being more extreme that John McCain, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. Instead of proposing any ideas to reform immigration, Mitt Romney is more interested in questioning the character and motives of families who are working towards the American Dream," Burton said.
Obama said earlier Friday while announcing the policy change in the Rose Garden that the new measure would "lift the shadow of deportation" from immigrants.
“That we would treat them as expendable makes no sense,” Obama said.
“They study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods ... they pledge allegiance to our flag, they are Americans in their hearts and minds ... and in every single way but one: on paper."