Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told the California convention Saturday the United States should encourage foreigners with skills to immigrate, while discouraging those who come here illegally and without skills.
"It is wrong for us to build an absolute concrete wall against those with skills and enterprise," he said, referring to foreign students who come here for advanced study, "and have a wide open door for people with no education and no skills."
His remarks were greeted with enthusiastic applause from this conservative crowd, for whom illegal immigration is a hot issue. Romney, a Republican governor in a Democratic state, is exploring a presidential run in 2008. California, with its reservoir of campaign cash, is a key stop along campaign trails.
Romney, a social conservative, also criticized gay marriage, saying, "every child deserves a mother and a father." He praised President Bush's aggressive foreign and military policies, and said the nation should wean itself from oil.
"This country is using too much oil," he said, adding that billions of dollars were being poured "down black holes in countries who don't like us."
He said improving education and investing in technology was the way to keep America competitive as Asian economies grow.