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Romney says he wished court gave states 'latitude' on immigration

SCOTTSDALE, AZ -- Mitt Romney pledged to reform the nation's immigration laws in his first year as president while criticizing the Supreme Court's immigration decision on Monday in broad terms.

Romney told donors in Arizona that he would have preferred that their state have more discretion in enforcing its immigration laws following a ruling by the high court throwing out much of Arizona's tough immigration law.

"Now you probably heard today there was a Supreme Court decision relating to immigration and given the failure of the immigration policy in this country, I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to the states not less," Romney told some 200 donors seated in a hotel ballroom for his remarks. "And there are states now under this decision have less authority, less latitude to enforce immigration laws."

Throughout the primary campaign, Romney defended the immigration law here, which called for local law enforcement to check immigration documents for anyone who they suspected may be in the country illegally (among other provisions), as the right course for a state to take when the federal government has failed to address immigration.

The court invalidated much of the law except for one of its most controversial prongs: the requirement that authorities check the immigration status of individuals whom they detain and suspect of being in the U.S. illegally.

Romney didn't address that provision directly, pivoting instead to accuse President Obama of a failure to lead on immigration and creating a "muddle" of the issue.

"The president promised in his campaign that in his first year he would take on immigration and solve our immigration challenges, put in place a long term program to care for those who want to come here legally to deal with illegal immigration, to deal with securing our borders," Romney said. "All these things he was going to in his first year he had a Democrat House and a Democrat Senate but he didn’t do it. Isn’t it time for the American people to ask him why?"

Romney has not remarked publicly on the Supreme Court case or immigration today, but in addressing the topic of reform with a group of donors here who collectively gave more than $2 million dollars to the campaign, Romney pledge to forgo stopgap measures and reform the U.S. immigration system within the first year of his administration.

"In my first year I will make sure we actually do take on immigration, we secure our border, we make sure that we grow legal immigration in a way that provides people here with skill and expertise that we want," Romney said. "This is an issue that has to be tackled."