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Mitt Romney will ‘study and consider’ Marco Rubio’s Republican alternative to the DREAM Act

Mitt Romney’s campaign said Wednesday that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will “study and consider” the immigration bill outlined by Florida Senator Marco Rubio but stopped short of offering an endorsement.

Rubio, a rising GOP star rumored to be a possible running mate for Romney, said Tuesday that he is putting together a conservative alternative to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. That bill, supported by Democrats and popular among Latinos, would facilitate citizenship for illegal immigrant youths who enroll in college or enlist in the military.

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The plan by Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, would allow these young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States but would deny them citizenship.

The Wall Street Journal and NBC News reported that Romney cited a Republican version of the DREAM Act as an important overture to Hispanic voters when he spoke Sunday at a private fundraiser in Palm Beach, Fla. Romney opposes the DREAM Act as written.

Rubio said Tuesday that he did not consult Romney before drawing up his plan, but added that “it’s important for him to feel comfortable with and be supportive of whatever endeavor we pursue.”

Though stricter than the DREAM Act, Rubio’s proposal still might conflict with Romney’s firm stance on illegal immigration.

“I’d build a fence, I’d hire border patrol agents to secure it, I’d make sure that we crack down on employers that hire people who are here illegally and make sure they use a system like E-Verify,” Romney said last week at a rally in Warwick, R.I.

Romney’s position on immigration has contributed to his deficit among Hispanic voters. A Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday showed 67 percent of registered Latino voters support President Obama, compared to only 27 percent who back Romney.

Lately, Romney has stressed his support of legal immigration and has said the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party, is “the pro-immigration party.”

“We are the party that values legal immigration,” he said in Warwick, where he spoke for several minutes about immigration. “We welcome people coming here legally; it’s a source of strength for us. Theirs is the party that talks about it, but does nothing about it. I want to make sure we stop illegal immigration, so we can protect legal immigration.”

Romney said immigrants do not have to abandon their native languages but should be able to speak English. To underscore the point, he said Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno, a Republican, had told him that “Spanish is the language of our heritage, and English is the language of opportunity.”

Romney also extended a special invitation to highly educated foreign nationals, saying “if you have advanced degrees from accredited universities here or elsewhere, I’d staple a green card to their diploma.”

Romney’s campaign said he would review “any proposals on immigration from his Republican partners.”

“We must work together on protecting and strengthening legal immigration, securing our borders, ending illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner, and ensuring that any reforms do not encourage further illegal immigration,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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