LAS VEGAS - For a moment it looked as if President Obama and Mitt Romney found a sliver of common ground on the issue of immigration.
In an interview with the Denver Post Tuesday, Romney said if elected he would honor Obama's executive order permitting young illegal immigrants to stay in the country on temporary work permits. "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," Romney said.
But on the eve of the first presidential debate, the Obama campaign wasn't about to let the Republican challenger get away with ... defending the president.
The Obama campaign called Romney's remarks a flip flop. "Romney's latest immigration pivot raises more questions than it answers. He still has not said whether he would continue the Administration's policy that provides a temporary reprieve from deportation for young people who were brought here through no fault of their own," Gabriela Domenzain, Obama's Director of Hispanic Press said in a statement.
"President Obama failed on immigration reform for the same reason he failed to create jobs and rein in the debt- he is a weak leader who is more interested in playing politics then doing what's right," said Alberto Martinez, a Romney campaign adviser, in a statement.
Earlier this year, Romney promised if elected he would veto the so-called DREAM Act, a bill that never passed but was similar to the unilateral action taken by the Obama administration. And during the Republican primaries Romney told voters he supported "self-deportation" for undocumented workers, in response to his then-challenger Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who took heat for offering undocumented students in-state tuition costs at Texas colleges and universities.
"We know he called the DREAM Act a ‘handout' and that he promised to veto it," Domenzain said. "Nothing he has said since contradicts this and we should continue to take him at his word."
Last month in Florida, Romney addressed the Hispanic community at a Univision forum, telling Latino voters "I will put in an immigration reform plan that solves this issue."
Obama and Romney face off in the first of three presidential debates Wednesday night. The first debate moderated by Jim Lehrer will focus on domestic issues. Both candidates are expected to be asked about immigration.