Mitt Romney claimed Monday that he is more conservative than President Trump on immigration, expressing skepticism about allowing recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to gain a path to citizenship.
Romney, who is running for outgoing Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat, made the comments at a question-and-answer in Provo, describing himself as a “hawk” on immigration.
“For instance, I’m a deficit hawk,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee said, according to Utah's The Daily Herald. “That makes me more of a conservative than a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats. I’m also more of a hawk on immigration than even the president. My view was these DACA kids shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the country legally."
Trump came under fire last week from immigration hardliners after he signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus bill which provided only $1.6 billion for border security funding, which was mostly for repairs or additions of already-existing fencing and explicitly ruled out recent wall prototypes Trump had viewed in California.
Trump briefly considered vetoing the bill, both over the lack of funding for border security and also the failure to provide a legislative fix for the expiring DACA program. He told DACA recipients that “Republicans are with you” and blasted Democrats for not doing enough to come up with a legislative solution.
But, according to the Herald, Romney said he believed there should be qualifications DACA recipients should earn to justify residency, such as going to college, becoming a teacher or joining the military.
“Now I will accept the president’s view on this, but for me, I draw the line and say, those who’ve come illegally should not be given a special path to citizenship,” he said.
A spokesman later clarified Romney’s remarks to The Boston Globe, ruling out support for a pathway to citizenship but agreeing that President Obama’s DACA commitment should be honored.
“President Obama enacted DACA and Gov. Romney believes the commitment made by President Obama should be honored,” the statement said. “Therefore, he agrees with President Trump’s proposal to allow DACA recipients to legally stay in the country but does not support a special pathway to citizenship.”