Mitt Romney accidentally floated a new immigration position in an interview with conservative site Newsmax on Friday, suggesting that he favored a path to permanent status for young illegal immigrants through higher education. The campaign quickly walked the position back when confronted with the discrepancy by TPM.
“For those that are here as the children of those who came here illegally, I want to make sure they have a permanent answer to what their status will be,” Romney said in the interview, “and I’ve indicated in my view that those who serve in the military and have advanced degrees would certainly qualify for that kind of permanent status.”
That would have represented a significant departure from Romney’s previous stance, reiterated as recently as last week in a major immigration speech to Latino group NALEO, that only military service should be considered as a valid path to permanent status. Romney has vocally opposed even allowing in-state tuition for college students who came to the country illegally. By contrast, Obama’s recent executive action waives deportations for young illegal immigrants who graduated from high school, earned a GED or served in the military.
Two Romney campaign representatives initially referred TPM to Romney’s longtime position that legal immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in the United States should have a green card stapled to their diploma. But Romney’s campaign recently confirmed to the Huffington Post that the advanced degree path to a green card was strictly for foreign students who enter the country legally only. But Romney stated quite clearly in the Newsmax interview that he’s referring to the children of illegal immigrants, suggesting a shift.
Williams told TPM in a subsequent e-mail that Romney had inadvertently misstated his position.
“The Governor was referring to his long held position that young illegal immigrants brought here as children who serve in the military should be able to obtain legal permanent residence and that we should staple a green card to the diploma of every eligible student visa holder who graduates from one of our universities with an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering,” Williams said. “He simply misspoke in this interview.”
The full video is here.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.