US Republican presidential team at odds on immigration policy

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, told The Denver Post newspaper in an interview on Monday 1st October 2012 that he would not allow the deportation of illegal immigrants who have paid for a deferral of any action to deport them. This promise seems to put Mr Romney at odds with his running mate, Paul Ryan.

Mr Romney was asked by Denver Post journalist Allison Sherry whether he would overturn President Obama's Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program, introduced by the President earlier this year, allowed certain young illegal immigrants to apply for immunity from deportation for a two year period upon payment of a fee. Mr Romney said 'the people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased.'

Mr Romney added, 'Before those visas have expired, we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed.'

However, on 24th September 2012, Mr Ryan, the Vice-Presidential Candidate and Mr Romney's running mate told voters in Lima, Ohio that they were planning to 'undo' President Obama's executive order that set up the DACA program. This appears to contradict what Mr Romney has said on this issue.

Mr Romney's words have been interpreted by many commentators as an effort to soften his previous position and appeal to swing voters, particularly to voters of Hispanic heritage. Mr Romney is trailing Mr Obama in the polls among Hispanic voters. The Huffington Post on 1st October 2012 reported that a national poll showed that only 21% of Hispanic voters support Mr Romney against 73% who say that they would back President Obama. In addition to the apparent softening of his line on illegal immigration, he was also photographed eating a Burrito Bowl at a Denver Mexican fast food restaurant.

The new policy is a significant departure for the Republicans. At the Republican National Convention, Mr Romney and Mr Ryan took a very hard line on immigration. Mr Romney supported legislation that would encourage the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the US, many of them Mexicans, to 'self-deport' by making their lives difficult. He has also said that, if elected, he would veto the DREAM Act, a bill which would see some illegal immigrants given legal residency.

Mr Romney also told The Denver Post that he would introduce immigration reform legislation in the first year of his term. 'I will propose a piece of legislation which will reform our immigration system to improve legal immigration so people don't have to hire lawyers to figure out how to get here legally', he said, adding 'The president promised in his first year, his highest priority that he would reform immigration and he didn't. And I will.'

However, Mr Romney was not clear on the details of his reform legislation. He has previously suggested that illegal immigrants who have served in the US armed forces might be allowed permanent residency.

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