Mitt Romney said he "would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to the states, not less," after Monday's split decision on the Arizona's controversial immigration law.
It was the candidate's most extensive comments on the issue thus far.
Earlier in the day, the Romney campaign issued a broad statement that largely sidestepped the ruling and instead attacked President Obama for not having undertaken immigration reform earlier in his term. That led to a feisty exchange on the chartered press plane with traveling press secretary Rick Gorka, who remained elusive despite being asked 21 separate questions from reporters on where Romney stood on the issue.
Romney still offered little hint as to whether he personally supported the Arizona law, which allowed police officers to check an individual's immigration status through the course of enforcing other laws.
A majority of the justices sided with the Obama administration Monday on three of four challenges to Arizona's immigration law. But they ruled that the part allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect to be in the country illegally could stand. However, the court added that the constitutionality of that provision could be challenged again once the program is actually implemented.
Romney indicated for the first time Monday that he believed the justices had overreached in limiting the abilities of states to institute immigration laws, but still remained silent on whether he believed Arizona-style laws were the correct course of action.
He did, however, echo many of the criticisms of Obama's immigration policy voiced in his statement from earlier in the day.
"Because he didn’t act, states and localities have tried to act and now the court's trying to get into it and sort things out and it’s a muddle," Romney said. "It’s a muddle because he failed to do what he said he’d do. Why? Why didn’t he do it? Why has he been there three and a half years and nobody has called him to task for not answering that question?"
Obama issued a statement Monday praising the court for siding with the administration on the majority of the provisions under challenge, but expressing concern about the implementation of aspects of the law that would require immigration status checks.
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona's immigration law,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally.”