WASHINGTON – Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said that if he reaches the White House he will veto the DREAM Act, which offers a path to citizenship for some undocumented young people, should Congress finally pass the measure.
The former Massachusetts governor made the promise Saturday night while campaigning in Iowa, where the first contest of the GOP nominating process takes place this week.
“The answer is yes,” he said when someone asked whether a future President Romney would veto the DREAM Act.
Romney, seen as the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination, on several occasions has expressed his opposition to the measure, but before now he had never actually said that he would veto it.
He added, however, that he would support the clause in the law allowing foreigners who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces to receive permanent residence in this country.
“I’m delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents of this country,” Romney told a crowd in Le Mars, Iowa.
On the other hand, he said, he would oppose the rest of the measure in keeping with his stated aim to do away with illegal immigration to protect legal immigration.
“For those who come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits I find to be contrary to the idea of a nation of law,” Romney said in remarks apparently aimed at one of his rivals, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who defends the decision to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Texas universities.
The DREAM Act, supported by the government of Barack Obama, would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students who entered the United States before the age of 16, graduate from a U.S. high school and either enroll in college or enlist in the Armed Forces.
The measure passed the then-Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in late 2010, but fell five votes short in the Senate.
In general, Republicans take the stance that the DREAM Act is amnesty for people who illegally enter the country, even though they might have been brought across the border as youngsters by their parents.
It is expected that immigration will be a key issue in this year’s presidential election given the size of the Hispanic population in pivotal states such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado.
Iowa Republicans will gather Tuesday in statewide caucuses that will be the first real test for the six remaining candidates.
Romney on Saturday came in first in one of the most important voter surveys in Iowa, that conducted by the Des Moines Register, with 24 percent support, followed by Rep. Ron Paul with 22 percent and former Sen. Rick Santorum with 15 percent. EFE