WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican White House candidate Mitt Romney is offering new ideas on the controversial issues of taxes and immigration, sparking a fresh flashpoint with President Barack Obama before their inaugural debate Wednesday.
The GOP nominee suggested an option of limiting deductions to pay for his across-the-board income tax cut and revealed that he would honor temporary work permits for young illegal immigrants granted by the Obama administration.
"The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," Romney told The Denver Post in an interview published Tuesday. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."
Obama announced in June that he would prevent deportation for some children brought to the United States by illegal immigrant parents. Applicants must not have a serious criminal record and must meet other requirements, such as graduating from high school or serving in the U.S. military.
The program closely tracked with the DREAM Act, a bill that failed to pass Congress that would have provided a path to legal status for many young illegal immigrants. Romney said during the Republican presidential primary campaign that he would veto DREAM Act legislation.
Obama campaign spokesman Gabriela Domenzain said Romney's statement to the Denver Post "raises more questions than it answers," including whether he would repeal Obama's policy or deport those who have received a deferment after two years.
"We know he called the DREAM Act a 'handout' and that he promised to veto it," Domenzain said. "Nothing he has said since contradicts this and we should continue to take him at his word."
The Denver Post interview comes as Romney and Obama are fighting a heated battle for Colorado, whose significant Hispanic population could determine which candidate receives the state's nine electoral votes.
Throughout the Republican primary, Romney took an aggressive tack on immigration, saying in debates that he approved of "self-deportation," where undocumented workers would choose to leave the country on their own because they were unable to find work. He assailed rival Rick Perry, the Texas governor, for allowing illegal immigrants to attend Texas state colleges and universities at reduced, in-state tuition rates. Romney always has said he supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.
After Romney secured the nomination, he indicated he would review potential legislation from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio that would allow some young illegal immigrants a way to stay in the country.
In another interview Monday with Denver television station KDVR, Romney laid out a possible scenario for paying for proposal to cut all income tax rates by 20 percent. He's previously said the cuts would be funded by closing loopholes and deductions, but that the specifics would have to be worked out with Congress.
"As an option you could say everybody's going to get up to a $17,000 deduction; and you could use your charitable deduction, your home mortgage deduction, or others - your health care deduction, and you can fill that bucket, if you will, that $17,000 bucket that way," Romney said. "And higher income people might have a lower number."
The new details came as Romney and Obama went into seclusion Tuesday to practice for the debate, underscoring the high stakes for both in their first televised encounter. Obama is at a resort in Henderson, Nev., while Romney was spending most of the day in practice with plans to tour the debate stage set up on the University of Denver campus.
Romney and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, playing Obama in their practice sessions, emerged for lunch at a Chipotle Mexican Grill down the street from their hotel, trailed by media taking pictures. The pair ordered pork burrito bowls, Romney ignored reporters' questions about how he was feeling going into the debates.
With just five weeks until Election Day, they dispatched their wives and running mates to court voters in key states, such as the critical battleground of Ohio, where early voting began Tuesday. Balloting already is under way in other states.
In Pennsylvania, a judge blocked a requirement that all voters show photo ID in this year's election, a victory for Democrats who argued it would prevent the elderly and minorities from voting. But voters will have to show identification in some other states as part of a wave of new policies approved primarily by Republican-controlled legislatures.