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FACT CHECK: Obama wrong on 'model for the nation' debate claim

During Tuesday night's debate, President Obama and Mitt Romney sparred over a lot, including immigration. At one point, Obama said of Romney, "He called the Arizona law a model for the nation."

That isn’t true.

The issue has its roots in a GOP primary debate. In that debate, Romney said, "I think you see a model in Arizona," but his campaign later clarified he wasn't talking about SB 1070. During the debate, he was talking about E-verify, which was not passed in that law but in an earlier one in Arizona.

Romney's statement was vague, and allowed opponents to try and tie him to the controversial SB 1070 law. Romney also said, however, in that debate that lawsuits against Arizona should be dropped and that he would drop them "on day one," an apparent reference to the Justice Department's lawsuit against the state. 

Here's the exchange from the Feb. 22nd GOP debate in Arizona:

KING: Governor Romney, the border security is part of the equation, what to do about whether it's 8 million or 11 million illegal immigrants in the country now is another part of the equation. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's with us tonight from Maricopa County -- he's in the audience -- he told me -- he told me this week here in Mesa -- these are his words -- "it's called political garbage, if you will, to not arrest illegals already in this country." You've talked to the governor about self-deportation, if businesses do their job, asking for the right documents, the people will leave. What about arresting? Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here that says -- that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e- verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally. And as a result of e-verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing. And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. 

The Romney campaign told the Arizona Republic the day after the debate that Romney wasn't referring to SB 1070 but to E-verify, which isn't contained in SB 1070. The Republic wrote: 

"It's clear from the transcript that Romney was describing part of the state's 2007 employer-sanctions law, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. That Arizona law requires employers to use a federal electronic system to verify whether new hires are eligible to work in the United States and provides punishment for companies that hire undocumented immigrants."

Obama interjected after he made his "model for the nation" charge that, "Governor Romney says he wasn’t referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it — not E-Verify, the whole thing. That’s his policy, and it’s a bad policy."

It is true that a top endorser of Romney’s -- Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and former lawyer in the John Ashcroft Justice Department -- helped craft SB 1070.