By Jordy Yager - 08/29/12 07:29 PM EDT
TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney might punt on immigration reform until after the election, according to one of his close advisers.
Former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) said on Wednesday that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is going to wait until after he is elected president to seriously address the problems with the U.S. immigration system.
“I think he’s decided that he’s going to deal with this issue as president and not as a candidate,” said Martinez at a panel discussion at the University Club in Tampa.
“And I think that’s probably smart politics. Although I still think he has to reach out to Hispanics."
Martinez stressed that immigration reform is a divisive issue, and said any effective changes to the system need to be made on a bipartisan basis with private discussions, not heated public rhetoric.
“The immigration issue is too difficult to deal with in the public context,” said Martinez.
“We have to go back to the drawing board. We lost our way,” he said. “I think we, as Republicans, have to recognize that this is a big deal.”
Immigration reform has been stalled on Capitol Hill for years as Republicans effectively blocked Democratic efforts to pass the DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to some children who were brought to the country illegally.
Many Republicans claim that Democrats are going too far and providing amnesty for people who broke federal laws when entering the United States.
Amid the impasse, President Obama announced earlier this year that his administration would be offering certain eligible young people in the country illegally a two-year chance to stay in the United States and work.
Romney has outlined several areas of his immigration stance, including his push to offer citizenship to young people in the country illegally if they join the U.S. military.
But while he has said that he wants a more permanent fix to the immigration system, instead of Obama’s temporary measures, Romney has steered clear of saying what that permanent fix might look like.