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Mitt Romney Campaign: Candidate Meant Arizona Was 'Model' For E-Verify, Not Because Of S.B. 1070

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Mitt Romney's presidential campaign reiterated on Thursday that the candidate had never endorsed Arizona's contested immigration law, noting that he meant only that the state's employee status verification law should be a model.

Earlier in the morning, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said at a National Journal event that "no," Arizona's immigration law should not serve as a national model. "I believe that Arizona and states like Arizona had a constitutional right to do what they did," Rubio said.

"I do not believe that laws like Arizona should be a model for the country," Rubio added. "In essence, I don't believe Florida should have an Arizona law; I don't advocate that other states have an Arizona law."

The Romney campaign told The Huffington Post that although the candidate declared at a February debate that Arizona was a "model" for the nation on immigration, it would be wrong to characterize his position as different from that of Rubio, who has endorsed his presidential bid.

Romney's comments were widely interpreted to mean that he desired a nationwide law like Arizona's SB 1070, especially since he followed up by speaking of his plans to end a federal suit against the state's legislation.

But his exact words in the debate seem to point more to support for E-Verify, a system requiring employers to check a potential hire's immigration status, than for SB 1070. Arizona law requires employers to use E-Verify.

"I think you see a model here in Arizona," Romney said then. "They passed a law here that says that people who come here and try to find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E-Verify. This E-Verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally. And as a result of E-Verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent."

Watch Romney deliver his remarks, below.

This isn't the first time the Romney campaign has drawn such a distinction. In March, Romney spokesman Ryan Williams told the Arizona Republic that the former Massachusetts governor was referring to the Arizona law requiring E-Verify, not to SB 1070.

Last week President Barack Obama criticized Romney for calling Arizona a model and said its laws encouraged racial profiling.

"We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country … and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption," Obama told Univision.

A federal lawsuit has challenged SB 1070 for, among other things, a controversial provision requiring police to inquire about immigration status during a routine stop if they have reasonable suspicion.

The Romney campaign emailed HuffPost to emphasize that Romney supports states' rights to create laws on immigration to help with the federal government's enforcement efforts and would not sue states, like Arizona, that are doing so.

This post has been updated to include details of the Romney campaign's email.

CORRECTION: This post originally stated in error that E-Verify was mandated by SB 1070 rather than a separate employee status verification law.

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