Evan Vucci, Associated Press
BRUNSWICK, Ohio — Mitt Romney is refusing to say that he would overturn President Barack Obama's new policy allowing some young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States.
The Republican presidential candidate tells CBS" ''Face the Nation" that if he's president, Obama's executive order "would be overtaken by events ... by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution."
Romney was asked three times in the interview if he would overturn Obama's order, but he didn't directly answer the question. Instead, he said would work to pass a law to help those young people who were "brought in by their parents through no fault of their own." Romney said he doesn't know why Obama "feels stop-gap measures are the right way to go."
The candidate's comments represent a further softening of his rhetoric on immigration since the GOP primary campaign ended. For example, before the Iowa caucuses in January, when he faced the challenge of winning over the right-wing base of the GOP, he pledged to veto legislation backed by Democrats that would have created a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Instead of emphasizing the plight of illegal immigrants, Romney focused on the consequences illegal immigration has for U.S. jobs.
The Obama administration said the policy change announced Friday will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. Obama's move bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the Democrats' long-stalled legislation aimed at young illegal immigrants who went to college or served in the military.
Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be able to avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED diploma or certificate, or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.
The broadcast interview, conducted Saturday while Romney's Rust Belt bus tour stopped in Pennsylvania, also touched on a variety of topics, from health care to Romney's political future:
—With the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of Obama's health care law expected this month, Romney described what he would do if the justices threw it out. He wants to make sure people "don't have to worry about losing their insurance" if they already have a medical condition and change jobs; that individuals can buy coverage on their own, if they choose to do so, "on the same tax-advantage basis" as companies do; and that states, with aided by federal dollars, take responsibility for the poor and uninsured. Regardless of how the high court rules, Romney said he would "stop Obamacare in its tracks and return to the 10th Amendment that allows states to care for these issues on the way they think best."
—Regardless of how Europe's financial crisis plays out, he hopes that "our banking sector is able to weather the storm." He said European countries are capable of dealing with their mess "if they choose to do so" and the U.S. doesn't want to get into the business of bailing out foreign banks. Romney also does not favor another round of economic stimulus by the Federal Reserve, saying a previous one didn't have the desired effect.
—He said he would make clear to the Iranians that as president, he would be willing "to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world."
—He described himself as "not a guy that's going for the next step in my political career. I don't have a political career. I served as governor for four years. I spent my life in the private sector. The private sector is where I've made my mark. I am in this race because I want to get America back on the right track. I don't care about re-elections." Moderator Bob Schieffer asked, "So you're not saying you just intend to serve one term?" Romney replied that for him "this is not about politics. This is not about did I win this or did they win this. This is about what can we do to get America right." He added, "We've got to have people who are willing to put aside the partisanship, stop worrying about the next elections, and say, 'You know what? We've got to fix the country fast.'"
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