Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign said he misstated his views on immigration in an interview published Friday, when he appeared to suggest that higher education and military service were pathways to legal status in the U.S. for young illegal immigrants.
As recently as at a conference of Latino elected officials last week, Romney has named military service, but not education, as a pathway.
"As president I will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service," he said at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference last Thursday.
In the interview published Friday with the conservative publication and website Newsmax, Romney appeared to go further, either suggesting that higher education should accompany military service or be an alternative to military service for young people seeking legal status.
"For those that are here as the children of those that came here illegally, I want to make sure they have a permanent answer to what their status will be," he said. "And I've indicated in my view that those who serve in the military and have advanced degrees would certainly qualify for that kind of permanence."
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement following publication of the interview that Romney "simply misspoke in this interview."
"The Governor was referring to his long-held position that young illegal immigrants brought here as children who serve in the military should be able to obtain legal permanent residence and that we should staple a green card to the diploma of every eligible student visa holder who graduates from one of our universities with an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering," Williams said.
At the NALEO conference - and before it on the campaign trail - Romney has said that as president he would "update our temporary worker visa program" and "staple a green card to the diploma of someone who gets an advanced degree in America."
But he has not said if those would apply to young illegal immigrants who have graduated, are enrolled, or are seeking admission to higher education.
Nor has he said if he would repeal an Obama Administration directive that would defer the deportation of some young illegal immigrants who were or are successful students, as well as those who served or are serving in the military, have no criminal record, and pose no threat.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida who Romney said he is vetting as a possible running mate, has supported a Republican alternative to the DREAM Act which would create a legal pathway for those who serve in the military or pursue higher education.
But Rubio, Romney, and many other Republicans are opposed to the DREAM Act, a measure supported by many Democrats which would include a pathway to citizenship.
A senior adviser to Romney's campaign said that Romney would consider all Obama Administration executive actions "subject to review and repeal."
Rather, Romney has said that he favors broader immigration reform, rather than the president's limited order.
"If I'm president I will reform immigration with an idea of making immigration more transparent, helping reunite families, assuring that we have a large and ample supply of workers that are needed in agriculture and other temporary assignments," he said in the Newsmax interview.