Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney said Monday that he’s more of a hardliner on immigration than President Donald Trump, citing his opposition to citizenship for Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
“I’m also more of a hawk on immigration than even the president,” he told a crowd of supporters during a campaign event. “My view was these DACA kids shouldn’t all be allowed to stay in the country legally. I will accept the president’s view on this, but for me, I draw the line and say those who’ve come illegally should not be given a special path to citizenship.”
Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last September, calling on Congress to find a legislative fix for Dreamers. The president’s position has since become more hardline on that fix. He now says he would only accept a deal for Dreamers to be offered a path to citizenship in exchange for funding his border wall and supporting the end of family-based migration ― which immigration restrictionists often call chain migration.
Romney took this a step further, saying Monday that Dreamers needed to earn their right to stay in the country by attending community college or serving in the military.
His campaign offered a clarification Tuesday about that position, pointing to a campaign disclosure statement from Romney that said Dreamers deserve legal status, but not a path to citizenship.
“I support the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and believe the best way to fix birthright citizenship abuses, and retain the Constitution’s provision, is to end chain migration,” the statement added.
Romney’s comments Monday constitute the same immigration policy position he held during his 2012 presidential run, a campaign spokesman told the Deseret News, but take into account changes to the immigration system in the intervening years, most notably President Barack Obama’s decision to establish DACA.
“President Obama enacted DACA and Gov. Romney believes the commitment made by President Obama should be honored,” the spokesman said. “Therefore, he agrees with President Trump’s proposal to allow DACA recipients to legally stay in the country but does not support a special pathway to citizenship.”
In 2012, Romney also famously called for “self-deportation” ― people choosing to return to their home countries willingly ― as a means to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the country.
Perhaps seeking to curry favor with Utah’s pro-immigration constituency, Romney hailed the state’s welcoming policy toward legal immigrants, contrasting it with Washington’s “message of exclusion,” in last month’s campaign video announcing his Senate run. Republican-dominated Utah is relatively less anti-immigration that other red states, in part because of the Mormon Church’s cautiously pro-DACA stance.
Romney is widely expected to win the November election for the Utah Senate seat that opened up after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) announced his retirement in January. A February poll showed that Romney has 60 percent of support among state voters.