Romney to Illegal Aliens: Join U.S. Military or Go Home

By Edwin Mora | July 11, 2012 | 4:22pm EDT

( -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign office said that it is Romney's policy that “young” illegal aliens who join the U.S. military should be able to remain in the United States and attain legal permanent residency status, but that Romney is otherwise sticking by his previously stated position that all illegal aliens must return to their home countries.

If the player does not load, please check that you are running the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. had asked the GOP candidate’s campaign if Romney still holds the policy view he expressed in 2008 and 2011 that all illegal aliens residing in the United States must go back to their home countries and then, if they want to legally immigrate to the U.S., they will need to get in the back of the line.

In an June 22 e-mail to his campaign press office, asked Romney: “In your 2008 and 2011 Republican primary campaigns--specifically at the January 30, 2008 debate at the Reagan Library and at the December 10, 2011 debate at Drake University--you said that you would make all illegal aliens in the United States, including those who had been here a long time, return to their home countries and, if they wanted to legally immigrate to the United States, they would need get in the back of the line. Is it still your position that all illegal aliens in the United States must leave and go back to their home countries?”

Andrea Saul, the campaign’s press secretary, responded in a July 6 e-mail: “Governor Romney wants to protect and strengthen legal immigration by ending illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner. While President Obama has broken his promise and failed to offer any plan on immigration reform during his years in office, Governor Romney has announced a strategy for bipartisan and long-term immigration reform.”

The e-mail continued: “That strategy included specific proposals to secure our borders, discourage illegal immigration, and fix our nation’s broken immigration system so that it serves the needs of our economy. Governor Romney believes that young illegal immigrants brought here as children should have the chance to become permanent residents if they serve honorably in the U.S. military. And illegal immigrants should be able to register and get in line with other applicants.”

In a follow-up e-mail on July 6, asked the Romney campaign to clarify--yes or no--whether the governor still held the view he expressed in 2008 and 2010, specifically:  “Does he still support having illegal immigrants go back home?”

On background, a Romney campaign spokesman responded, “Yes.”

This Nov. 17, 2008 file photo shows U.S. Border Patrol agent Gabriel Pacheco walking back to his vehicle along the border fence in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)

According to Romney’s campaign office, under Romney's plan, “young” illegal aliens who join the U.S. military would be allowed to stay and attain legality, but all other illegal aliens would need to return to their home countries. If they wanted to legally immigrate to the U.S., they would then need to get in the back of the line.

During a Republican primary debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Jan. 30, 2008, Romney had said, “Under the ideal setting, at least in my view, you say to those who have just come in recently, we're going to send you back home immediately, we're not going to let you stay here. You just go back home.”

“For those that have been here, let's say, five years, and have kids in school, you allow kids to complete the school year, you allow people to make their arrangements, and allow them to return back home,” he said.

“These individuals are free to get in line with everyone else that wants to become a permanent resident or citizen,” said Romney. “But no special pathway, no special deal that says because you're here illegally, you get to stay here for the rest of your life.”

“Do it in a humane and compassionate way, but say to those that have come here legally, you must return home, you must get in line with everybody else that wants to come here,” he said.

Similarly, on Dec. 10, 2011, during a GOP primary debate at Drake University, Romney said, “My own view is, those 11 million people should register the fact that they're here in the country. They should be given some transition period of time to allow them to settle their affairs and then return home and get in line--at the back of the line--with everybody else that wants to come here.”

“Don't forget, when we talk about the difficulty of people going home,” he said, “there are millions of people, many of whom have relatives here in this country who are in line, who want to come here. I want to bring people in this country who have skill, experience, family here, who want to draw them in.”

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