Mitt Romney would pursue some type of comprehensive, long-term reform to America's immigration system, the former Massachusetts governor and his supporters said on Sunday.
Republicans accused President Obama of playing politics on Friday when he announced that the government would no longer seek the deportation of immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children, under certain conditions.
"What I would do, is I’d make sure that by coming into office, I would work with Congress to put in place a long-term solution for the children of those that have come here illegally," Romney said Sunday on "Face the Nation."
A top surrogate of Romney's, Arizona Sen. John McCain, went slightly further. Romney was "certainly willing to address that issue and immigration reform in a comprehensive way," McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The Obama administration's announcement on Friday has had immediate reverberations on the presidential campaign trail. The shift in policy was seen as a bid toward energizing Latino voters, who could prove a decisive voting bloc in certain swing states, behind Obama's candidacy.
Romney, whose conservative rhetoric on immigration during the primary prompted worries about turning off Latinos, sidestepped a question about whether he should specifically undo Obama's order. He said that question would be rendered moot — "overtaken by events," he said — by the long-term solution he would instead put in place.
For its part, the Obama administration denied that the announcement was motivated by electoral considerations.
"It wasn't about politics," White House adviser David Plouffe said on NBC. "We're absolutely confident … this is well within our powers to do."
Plouffe said he expected the election to be a close on regardless, but nonetheless acknowledged the administration's new policy toward young immigrants could give Obama a leg-up among Latinos in swing states.
"We're going to have to fight for every vote," Plouffe said, "but there's no doubt our strength with Latino voters helps in Nevada, Arizona, Florida."
Republicans, though, said that they viewed Obama's move with skepticism, accusing the administration of acting with an eye toward November.
"This was obviously a way to divert attention from very bad news the president has received the last tree or four weeks," McCain said.
Romney argued that the "timing is pretty clear," saying that Obama could have acted sooner in his administration to address immigration had he wanted to. Mobilizing Latinos, Romney argued, was "certainly a big part of the equation."
The new immigration proposal tracks closely to a plan that had been developed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, which Romney had said he was studying. Rubio is thought to be on the short list of candidates to become Romney's running mate this fall. Romney said on CBS that he had expected Rubio's proposal to be unveiled shortly, before Obama acted.
Neither Romney nor McCain offered any specific outline of what the presumptive Republican nominee's alternative immigration plan would accomplish. The term "comprehensive" has long been a buzzword among conservatives who who oppose a process toward citizenship — or even some sort of legal status — for illegal immigrants, which they view as "amnesty."
McCain had long been a proponent of a variation of comprehensive immigration reform that offered a pathway toward citizenship. He admitted that conservative opposition was a "major factor" in felling past attempts at that kind of reform, but he also blamed Democrats' insistence on other measures opposed by Republicans as a factor.