Mitt Romney is more conservative than President Trump on immigration, the 2012 Republican nominee for president and current candidate for Senate in Utah said at a forum Monday.
“I’m also more of a hawk on immigration than even the president,” Romney said Monday when he was asked about his conservative credentials at the event at the Provo Library. “My view was these DACA kids shouldn’t all be allowed to stay in the country legally.”
The DACA program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — is an Obama-era program that gives temporary deportation relief and work permits to nearly 800,000 immigrants who came to the United States as young people. Trump rescinded the program with a three month delay last year and attempted to make a deal in February that would have created a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants including DACA recipients in exchange for funding for the border wall. The deal ultimately failed, and there has not been any permanent fix for DACA recipients.
Romney said Monday that he did not support giving legal residence to the 1.8 immigrants that would have had a path to citizenship through the deal.
“That was not my posture,” Romney said, according to The Daily Herald. “So I was more conservative than others in my party. 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.”
Romney also reportedly said he believed DACA recipients “need to do more” to justify permanent residency, like attending college or serving in the military or other public service occupations.
Romney’s comments about the DACA program Monday are consistent with his hardline views during previous runs for office. When he ran for president in 2012, Romney said he would honor existing DACA permits but would not issue new ones and vowed to ultimately dismantle the DREAMer program. He also famously called for undocumented immigrants to “self-deport.”
During the 2012 Republican primary, Romney criticized former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his state-based DREAM act, saying, “My friend Gov. Perry said if you don’t agree with his position on giving that in-state tuition to illegals, that you don’t have a heart. I think if you’re opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a heart. It means that you have a heart and a brain.”
Romney also claimed that Perry’s DREAM act, which allowed the children of undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition, “makes no sense” and “cannot be sustained.”
But in the years since, Romney has tried to fashion himself as a more compassionate conservative, saying in his campaign announcement video, “Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world. Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”
But trying to distance himself from Trump by fashioning himself as the true hardliner is new for Romney, who hit Trump as a “fraud” and a “phony” in a speech during the 2016 election. Despite that, Trump has endorsed Romney’s campaign, something the former Massachusetts governor touted Monday.
“[Trump] has endorsed me in this race,” Romney said. “He respects people who speak their mind, because now and then, as you know, if he says something I think is wrong, I’ll point it out. And if he disagrees with me, he points it out even harder.”