After months of dodging the question, Mitt Romney said on Monday night that he would respect the executive action President Barack Obama put into place granting certain groups of undocumented immigrants a reprieve from deportation.
The former Massachusetts governor has steadfastly refused to address the issue, insisting that he would achieve comprehensive reform quickly enough so as to make the Obama policy a moot point. But in a sit-down interview with the Denver Post, Romney went a step further.
"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 said. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."
The announcement from Romney is a move toward a less rigid stance on immigration that the candidate has also taken in the past. It also risks offending some of the more ardent anti-immigration voices within his party, some of whom have called the Obama deferred action policy race-baiting. Some members of the party have urged Romney to reverse the policy as president.
Still, there are other Republicans who have argued that it's a matter of political necessity for Romney to adopt a more open stance on immigration. Obama's policy was based mainly off of a proposal that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had designed for the Senate.
Already, thousands of undocumented people have signed up to take advantage of the program, which grants work permits (not a path to citizenship). Those eligible must have arrived in America before they turned 16, be under the age of 30, have been living in the country for five or more years, and be either in the military, in school or graduated.
UPDATE: Gabriela Domenzain, the Obama campaign's director of Hispanic press, issued the following response to Romney's interview:
Romney's latest immigration pivot 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. Would he side with his extreme anti-immigration advisors 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.
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