(Photo: REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was in New Hampshire on the first day of his rural bus tour Friday, cautiously responded to President Barack Obama's new policy on the deportation of young illegal immigrants, and brought the focus back to jobs and economy.
"I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault of their own is an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis so they know what their future would be in this country," Romney said as he came out of his bus briefly in New Hampshire and spoke to reporters on Friday, the first day of his six-state, five-day tour.
Obama announced earlier during the day that his administration intends to implement sweeping federal changes to U.S. immigration law that will allow many young people living in the country without proper documentation to gain temporary legalized status through employment. "Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people," Obama said.
This forced Romney to respond, deviating from the issue of jobs and the economy – the focus of his bus tour to reach out to rural, largely white voters. Romney did, albeit briefly.
"I think the action that the president took today makes it more difficult to reach that long-term solution because an executive order is, of course, just a short-term matter – it can be reversed by subsequent presidents," The Associated Press quoted the former Massachusetts governor as saying. "I'd like to see legislation that deals with this issue."
Romney, who clinched his party's nomination last month, took a softer stand on illegal immigration than some of his statements during the Republican primaries. He has expressed opposition to the DREAM Act, which would allow young illegal immigrants to earn permanent resident status by pursuing a college education or the military
The GOP candidate needs the support of Hispanic voters in critical states like Nevada, Colorado and Florida. However, he cannot afford to disappoint his conservative voters either by entirely abandoning his earlier strong stand against illegal immigration.
Obama's announcement came a week before he and Romney are scheduled to speak to a group of Hispanic elected officials in Florida.
Romney soon got back to the issue of the economy on Friday. "If there's ever been a president who has not given a fair shot to the middle-income Americans of this great nation, it is Barack Obama," he was quoted as saying during an "ice cream social" in a New Hampshire town square. "I understand what it takes to get people to work again. I will do that to help the American people from the richest to the poorest and everybody in between."
Meanwhile, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum accused Obama of "blatantly ignoring" the Constitution, the legislative role of Congress, and the separation of powers.
"President Obama's ideology, his inability to lead and build consensus, and his political self-interest guide his policies rather than the public interest," he said in a statement. "The contribution of immigrants to our country is central to our success, but so is the Constitution and the rule of law. We should honor both rather than undermining legal immigration and Constitutional principles such as separation of powers."