Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Thursday that, as president, he would "replace and supersede" President Barack Obama's recent decision to not deport certain undocumented immigrants. He also attacked Obama's decision as an election year gimmick.
"Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action," Romney said, referring to Obama's Friday announcement that his administration would no longer deport undocumented immigrants that arrived in the United States as minors, have no criminal record, and have graduated from high school or served in the military. "The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure."
Romney, who was speaking at the annual conference for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at Walt Disney World in Florida, also blasted Obama for not trying to pass immigration reform when Democrats had control of the House and a 60 vote majority in the Senate.
"For two years," Romney said, "this President had huge majorities in the House and Senate – he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. Instead, he failed to act until facing a tough re-election and trying to secure your vote."
Romney called Obama's immigration decision a "stop-gap" measure and promised to work with both political parties, "in a civil but resolute manner," on a bi-partisan long-term solution if elected president.
Romney also proposed six specific reforms to the immigration system: 1) increase border security 2) reallocate Green Cards to immigrants seeking to keep their family together 3) update the temporary worker visa program to meet economic needs 4) provide a Green Card to anyone who receives an advanced degree in the United States 5) provide a path to legal status for anyone who serves in the military and 6) establish a strong employment verification system.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush spoke to the audience after Romney. Bush has been supportive of a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants and sharply critical of some Republicans, including Romney, for taking a hardline stance on immigration reform. After the speech, Bush told reporters he was "very pleased with it."
"I heard a consistent message of border control, but I think he expanded it out to talk about reforming the immigration system itself, allowing people to serve in the military to be able to get legal residency; to work with Democrats – which is a new concept, where actually Republicans and Democrats can work together for long-term, comprehensive reform rather than stop-gap measures," Bush said.
Obama will deliver a speech to the same group Friday afternoon.