Hours before the first presidential debate Wednesday in Denver, Mitt Romney’s campaign confirmed a new element of his immigration policy: As president, he would not issue temporary visas to young illegal immigrants, effectively halting President Obama’s popular deferred action policy.
A Romney campaign official confirmed a report from the Boston Globe, telling TPM it is “correct” that Romney would stop the program for young immigrants who did not receive a temporary work permit under President Obama. “Gov. Romney is committed to replacing the president’s temporary action with permanent reform,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.
The New York Times also received confirmation of Romney’s new position on the policy.
After months of only vague comments about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the president announced in June, Romney said he would honor the temporary work permits issued to DREAMers under Obama but did not specify in an interview with the Denver Post on Monday but did not say whether he would continue the policy. “Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed,” Romney told the Post.
At a speech before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in June, Romney said simply, “I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure.” Romney has also panned the policy, calling it a “stop-gap measure” and that “these kids deserve something better than temporary,” in a Univision forum in September.
How many DREAMers would ultimately benefit from the program if Romney halted it remains unclear. So far, only 29 applications (PDF) have been approved and only another 1,660 are ready for review by the Department of Homeland Security out of 82,361 applications the department has received. The campaign has not indicated if a Romney administration would also halt the review of submitted applications. About 1.8 million people are eligible for the two-year work permits under the program.
The deferred action program is popular among Latinos, a group Romney is already losing to Obama by a wide margin. A NBC poll released Wednesday showed Obama with a 50-point lead among Latino voters. The TPM PollTracker Average gives him a 41-point lead.
The Obama campaign responded to Romney’s new stance Wednesday afternoon in a statement from Gabriela Domenzain, the campaign’s director of Hispanic press.
“After more than 100 days of evasion, Mitt Romney has made his extreme immigrations position even clearer: he would end the Administration’s deferred action policy immediately upon becoming president and would veto the DREAM Act, which would provide a permanent solution for young people brought to this country through no fault of their own. What, in Mitt Romney’s mind, makes a young immigrant less deserving of this temporary reprieve from deportation on January 20th than he is on October third? This latest clarification is yet another reminder to Hispanics that Mitt Romney is the most extreme presidential nominee on immigration in modern history and is against any sensible solution to fix our broken immigration system.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.