LE MARS, Iowa – Mitt Romney, coming to a family diner in this self-proclaimed “Ice Cream Capital of the World,” said this afternoon that if he were elected president he would veto legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for certain illegal residents.
“The answer is yes,” Romney said to a voter who asked whether he would veto the Dream Act if it gets passed by Congress under his watch.
Although the former Massachusetts governor has been critical of the proposed legislation in the past, he hadn’t said so explicitly that he would veto it. The issue is likely to be a theme of the general election, particularly in states with high Hispanic populations such as Nevada, Colorado, and Florida.
The Dream Act, which some Democrats have pushed unsuccessfully in Congress, would create a path to legal residency for youths who arrived before they turned 16; have lived in the United States for five consecutive years; and have no criminal record. In order to become citizens, they would have to graduate from high school or obtain a GED, complete two years in college or the military, and be under 35 years old.
Romney today distinguished between components of the proposal, however, saying that he supports allowing immigrants who serve in the military to become permanent residents.
“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. “Those who serve in our military and fulfill those requirements, I respect and acknowledge that path.”
An aide said Romney opposes other portions of the Dream Act that provide a pathway to residency through education.
He also opposes granting in-state tuition, or other benefits, to illegal immigrants.
“If I’m the president of the United States, I want to end illegal immigration so that we can protect legal immigration,” Romney said. “I like legal immigration. And so I will secure the border with a fence, make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure that fence, and I will also crack on employers that hire people who are here illegally.”
Romney flew back to Iowa today after a brief trip to New Hampshire, preparing for the final sprint before Tuesday’s caucus vote in Iowa. He was joined by his youngest son, Craig, who introduced his father by telling a story of how competitive Romney is in the family’s annual tradition of holding a triathlon.
“My wife had just had a baby,” Craig Romney said. “She just had her second child about a month or two previously and she decided to go for it and compete in the race. All the boys had finished at that point and it was down to my wife and my dad over here.”
“I tripped her, I tripped her,” Mitt Romney joked from the side.
“He gave it a good kick and he beat her in the end,” his son added. “And he did almost die trying, by the way, he passed out in the lawn chair and we didn’t see him the rest of the day.”
Craig Romney sought to make a connection between the dedication of completing the triathlon and the work he would do in the White House.
“I changed the nature of the triathlon after that,” Mitt Romney said. “I didn’t like this idea that these were only swimming, biking and running. We had to add some sports. So now we have log sawing, nail hammering. We added some things I excel at so I don’t come in last every year.”
On the way to the event, Romney said, they pulled the bus over so he could get rocky road ice cream at Blue Bunny ice cream.
When asked what he would be doing for New Year’s Eve, he said he would be spending it with his wife, Ann.
“I looked at the website to see what’s going on in Des Moines over New Year’s Eve and there’s a celebration of the music of the Doors at a place called the, is it the Brickyard?” Romney said. “So we’ll see if we go there or just hang out in the lobby of the hotel. Not sure yet.”
When asked if he was a fan of the Doors, he said, “I enjoy their music.”
As for his New Year’s resolution? “To be more thankful and appreciative of people who I owe appreciation to,” Romney said.Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.