Young illegal immigrants who receive temporary work permits to stay in the United States under a decision by President Barack Obama would not be deported under a Mitt Romney administration, the GOP presidential hopeful told The Denver Post on Monday.
"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."
In June, Obama announced that the so-called "dreamers" – kids who were brought here by their illegal immigrant parents when they were young – will be allowed to stay under a temporary reprieve from deportation if they stay out of trouble and meet certain requirements such as graduating from a U.S. high school.
The Obama administration has sharply criticized Romney’s earlier ideas for immigration reform, which have called for all people living in the U.S. illegally to self-deport.
Romney said in a sit-down interview with The Post aboard his campaign bus ahead of a Denver rally that he would work with Congress in the first year to pass permanent immigration reform legislation.
He didn’t furnish specifics on that plan, but has said in previous interviews that students who served in the military may get a path to citizenship.
"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."
Obama’s order mirrors the "DREAM" Act, which has been dead on arrival in every Congress that’s tried to pass it. It was blocked by Senate Republicans two years ago.
Romney also was hazy about the future of Colorado’s medical marijuana industry, which reaps more than $5 million a year in state sales taxes, saying his administration would enforce federal drug laws, that prohibit marijuana for any use. "I oppose marijuana being used for recreational purposes and I believe the federal law should prohibit the recreational use of marijuana," he said.
Romney is spending Tuesday holed up preparing for the first presidential debate Wednesday at the University of Denver. He said he was looking forward to sharing a stage with the president to clear up distortions of the last few months.
"I think what’s going to happen in this debate is each of us will get the opportunity to describe our pathway forward for America," Romney said. "And for the last several weeks and months, the president has dramatically distorted my own views. I look forward to the debate so people will understand what I actually believe."
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