Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Monday that illegal immigrants who receive temporary work permits because of the recent policy change by President Obama would be allowed to keep them under a Romney administration.
"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," Romney told the Denver Post in an interview. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."
Romney had not said before what he would do about the president's executive order, saying simply that he would work for a comprehensive and long-term immigration solution.
He reiterated that position Monday in his interview with the Post.
"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," Romney said. "The president promised in his first year, his highest priority, that he would reform immigration, and he didn't. And I will."
During an interview on CNN Tuesday morning, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer downplayed the significance of Romney's announcement, coming just two days before the presidential debate. Spicer insisted the announcement was the natural extension of the previously stated Romney immigration policies.
"Well, you may be saying he never used those same words in the same sentence before, but if you go ahead and look at MittRomney.com where he laid out his immigration plan, it talks about keeping families together," Spicer says. "He also talks about making it a top priority in his administration within the first two years. To say, 'Within the first two years I'm going to have this solved so we don't break up families' is completely consistent with the plan he's laid out."
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), a top Romney surrogate, said Tuesday that the comments were unlikely to sway most voters, who remained focused on the economy.
“This isn’t an issue that’s going to move a lot of voters. It is in certain areas of the country. I do think it’s one more unmet need that the American people have had for a long time and I think that a comprehensive approach is frankly … what we need to do, but ultimately that’s not what people are going to vote on,” he said on CNN.
But the Obama campaign in a statement Tuesday said Romney's comment "raises more questions than it answers."
"He still has not said whether he would continue the administration’s policy that provides a temporary reprieve from deportation for young people who were brought here through no fault of their own," said Obama spokeswoman Gabriela Domenzain. "Would he side with his extreme anti-immigration advisers and repeal this measure? What would he do with those who qualify for deferred action but haven’t received it? Would he deport those who have received a deferment when the program expires after two years? We know he called the DREAM Act a ‘handout’ and that he promised to veto it — nothing he has said since contradicts this and we should continue to take him at his word.”
Romney is hoping his announcement could help him with Latino voters. A Latino Decisions poll released on Monday showed President Obama with a 61-33 percent lead among Latinos in battleground states.
This story was updated at 10:50 a.m.