- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2012

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Amid the attacks and countercharges in Tuesday’s debate, Mitt Romney appeared to make some news in saying he will seek to create ways to grant a path to citizenship to younger illegal immigrants brought here as children.

“The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids I think should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States,” he said. “And military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.”

The Republican presidential nominee had previously listed the military service option, but had said that was the only exception he was willing to carve out. His comments in the debate, though, suggested a much broader policy that could apply to all illegal immigrant youths, known as Dreamers because they would have qualified for stalled legislation known as the Dream Act.

Immigration has been a thorny issue for both candidates, particularly since Hispanic voters, who are a fast-growing voter demographic, view the issue as important.

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama had promised to work on an immigration bill in his first year in the White House, but instead turned his attention to health care and the stimulus.

“He had a Democrat House and Democrat Senate, supermajority in both houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come here legally and for those that are here illegally today?” Mr. Romney said at the debate.

For his part, Mr. Obama said he was having trouble convincing Republicans to join his effort.

He also said Mr. Romney called Arizona’s tough new law giving police the powers to check immigration status of those they suspect of being in the country illegally a “model” for other states. Those checks were upheld by the Supreme Court, though much of the rest of the law was struck down.

Mr. Romney had, in fact, said a different Arizona law was a model. That one requires employers to use an electronic federal system, E-Verify, to verify their workers. That law was upheld by the Supreme Court.

The president said Mr. Romney still can’t be trusted on the issue, saying he’d vowed to veto the Dream Act — a promise the Republican made during the primaries — and said Mr. Romney called for illegal immigrants to “self-deport.”

Mr. Obama also said Mr. Romney’s “top adviser on immigration” wrote both Arizona laws, so the Republican candidate is tied to them.

That adviser, Kris Kobach, told The Washington Times Tuesday night that Mr. Romney correctly explained self-deportation.

“He said that we should make it hard for illegal aliens to obtain jobs and taxpayer-subsidized benefits. If we do so, illegal aliens will leave of their own accord.

Evidently President Obama thinks that’s a bad idea. Obama is completely out of step with the American public on the immigration issue,” said Mr. Kobach, who is Kansas’ secretary of state.

“I predict that his statements in the debate will further alienate independent voters who are concerned about the millions of Americans who have lost jobs to illegal aliens.”

Mr. Kobach also said Mr. Romney’s vow to give younger illegal immigrants a path to citizenship is far more limited than Mr. Obama’s plans.

“He reiterated that he is broadly opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens. And he again identified the same (very small) group of illegal aliens who might be allowed to stay in the United States — those brought in by their parents who serve in the U.S. military,” Mr. Kobach said in an email. “Illegal aliens are not currently permitted to serve in the U.S. military. So that is a very small number of people, probably less than a hundred; nothing like the 1.7 million beneficiaries of Obama’s DREAM Act by executive fiat. He didn’t say that that was the only group. But he has never identified any other group either.”

Mr. Obama earlier this summer announced an expanded non-deportation policy that could grant hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants 30 and younger a stay of deportation. Those immigrants would get documentation saying they will not be deported and would get work permits.

According to dacafacts.com, a website hosted by Numbers USA, which opposes Mr. Obama’s policy, the government has received 179,794 applications so far, has approved 4,591 and has only requested follow-up evidence in just seven cases.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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