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Reporting from Des Moines — Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has pledged to veto the so-called DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants if they attend college or serve in the military.
Romney made the comments during a late campaign stop New Year’s Eve in northwestern Iowa.
“The answer is yes,” he said, when asked if he would veto the legislation if Congress passes it and he is in the White House.
Romney said, however, that he would support granting children of illegal immigrants some form of residency in exchange for military service. "I'm delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents of this country," he said, according to CNN.
Illegal immigration has been a pressing topic at campaign events across Iowa, with GOP candidates pledging to secure the border and resist any efforts to grant illegal immigrants any form of permanent residency.
But Latinos are viewed as a key to winning the general election by both parties—and Romney’s hostility to the DREAM Act promises to be exploited time and again by Democrats and President Obama’s reelection campaign.
Indeed, the Democratic National Committee quickly responded to Romney’s remarks.
“If there had been doubt in anyone’s mind—least of all, Hispanics in America, that Mitt Romney’s far-right views on immigration would make him the most extreme presidential nominee in recent memory, his statement [Saturday] that he would veto the DREAM Act if he were president is appalling,” said Juan Sepluveda, the DNC’s Senior Advisor for Hispanic Affairs. "This piece of legislation has been supported by members of both parties."
Republicans in the Senate in December 2010 blocked an effort by Democrats to push a version of the bill to the floor for a vote.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been savaged by his fellow GOP contenders and conservative critics for Texas’ decision to allow children of illegal immigrants to attend state colleges for the in-state tuition rate. At a campaign stop in Boone, Iowa Saturday, Perry defended the program yet again.
He said Texans overwhelming backed the idea, as being in the “best long-term interest of the state” and argued it was a choice between turning them into “tax-wasters” who would require government support or helping to make them skilled, productive residents.
But Romney slapped Perry over the issue again Saturday. "For those who come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits I find to be contrary to the idea of a nation of law," he said.