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At debate, Romney takes hard-line stances on immigration, terrorism

January 16, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, speaks as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich listens at the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate in Myrtle Beach.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, speaks as former House Speaker… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

Reporting from Myrtle Beach, S.C. — Playing to the conservative South Carolina GOP electorate, Mitt Romney at the Fox News debate in Myrtle Beach on Monday took hard-line positions on immigration and foreign policy, earning sustained applause in the debate hall.

In a state that boasts several military bases, Romney offered a hawkish foreign policy stance, saying the United States should not negotiate with the Taliban to end the American military action in Afghanistan and ought to take out terrorist enemies when given the opportunity.

“These people have declared war on us. They've killed Americans. We go anywhere they are and we kill them,” he said. “The right thing for Osama bin Laden was the bullet in the -- in the head that he received.”

PHOTOS: Republican presidential debate

Romney has taken the most conservative stance on illegal immigration among the Republican field, leading moderator Juan Williams to question whether he was harming the party’s chances among Latino voters in the general election.

Romney responded with a vigorous defense of his belief that those in the country illegally must go home if they would like to seek citizenship.

“I absolutely believe that those who come here illegally should not be given favoritism or a special route to becoming permanent residents or citizens that's not given to those people that have stayed in line legally,” he said. “I just think we have to follow the law. I think that's the right course.”

He said Latino voters are concerned with the issues that are priorities of all Americans -– opportunity and the American dream -- and he reiterated his support for legal immigration, a staple of his stump speech.

“But to protect our legal immigration system, we have got to protect our borders and stop the flood of illegal immigration,” Romney said. “And I will not do anything that opens up another wave of illegal immigration.”

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