MILFORD, N.H. — At a campaign stop here Friday, Mitt Romney criticized President Obama's new immigration policy, calling it a short-term fix — and signaling support, for the first time, for legislation that would allow some illegal immigrants to stay in the country.
"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.
He continued: "I think the actions that the president took today make it more difficult to reach that kind of long term solution because an executive order, of course, is a short-term matter that can be reversed by subsequent presidents."
He didn't go into detail as to what that legislation would include, but he did nod to the efforts of rising Republican star and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has supported giving renewable visas to young immigrants who go to college or join the military, and who came to the U.S. at a young age at the behest of their guardians.
"I'd like to see legislation that deals with this issue," Romney said. "And I happen to agree with Marco Rubio, as he said this is an important matter, we have to find a long-term solution."
He did not respond to questions shouted to him by the press corps about whether he would reverse Obama's decision. But the support for Rubio's efforts marks a sharp change in rhetoric on Romney's part. While he has expressed opposition to the DREAM Act as it was written, he has said he would "consider" Rubio's proposal.
With Obama's order to stop deporting law-abiding undocumented immigrants between the ages of 16 and 30, he appears to have reframed the debate — dragging Romney in his direction.
The comments also mark one of the rare occasions when Romney has directly addressed the question of immigration since the Republican primaires, when he distinguished himself with a hard-line stance. One of those times came last April, when he signaled an impending shift on the issue at a closed fundraiser. To gain support among Hispanics, he told donors, his party would have to support something "like a Republican DREAM Act... We're going to overcome the issue of immigration."
This story was updated to more clearly describe Rubio's immigration position, and to include mention of Romney's remarks at April's fundraiser.