Romney: Arizona immigration ruling underscores Obama failure

Mitt Romney is in Park City, Utah, hosting a retreat for a select group of wealthy Republican donors. But as Terrell Brown reports, Romney is keeping his top fundraisers' identities a secret.

Updated 4:45 p.m. ET

(CBS News) SALT LAKE CITY -- Mitt Romney reiterated his support for the right of states to carry out immigration enforcement but did not offer his opinion on the Supreme Court's decision Monday to strike down three contested provisions of a controversial Arizona immigration law. Instead, Romney accused President Obama of failing to make headway on immigration reform.

"Today's decision underscores the need for a president who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy," Romney said in a statement released by his campaign. "President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this president. I believe that each state has the duty--and the right--to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities. As Candidate Obama, he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office. But four years later, we are still waiting."

Although Romney traveled to Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday for a fundraiser, his campaign released the statement on paper rather than have the candidate hold a press conference in front of reporters and cameras.

Watch CBS News/National Journal reporter Rebecca Kaplan report from campaign trail on Romney's reaction to Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court preserved the most controversial provision of the Arizona law, which instructs police offers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or detain. The overall ruling was seen as a victory for the Obama administration, which argued that immigration was a federal rather than state responsibility.

Romney has avoided sharing his opinions on the specific provisions of the law, SB 1070. But he has been endorsed by and receives campaign advice from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped author the Arizona immigration law. And he has said that on Day One of his presidency, he would drop the federal government's lawsuits against states like Arizona that are seeking to implement their own immigration enforcement laws.

Romney also has voiced his support for an older Arizona immigration law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which requires employers to use a federal database to confirm that new employees are eligible to work in the United States. He called that law "a model" during a Feb. 22 primary campaign debate in Arizona.

Romney spokesman Rick Gorka took questions form reporters but avoids saying whether Romney supports the Supreme Court's decision on the Arizona law. Below is a full transcript.

(Video of Gorka and press below.) 

GORKA: The governor supports the states' rights to craft immigration laws when the federal government has failed to do so. This president promised as a candidate to address immigration in his first year and hasn't, and waited actually til 4 and a half months before the election to put in place a stopgap measure.

QUESTION: So does he think it's wrongly decided?

GORKA: The governor supports the states' rights to do this. It's a 10th amendment issue

QUESTION: So he thinks it's constitutional?

GORKA: The governor believes the states have the rights to craft their own immigration laws, especially when the federal government has failed to do so

QUESTION: And what does he think about parts invalidated?

GORKA: What Arizona has done and other states have done is a direct result of the failure of this president to address illegal immigration. It's within their rights to craft those laws and this debate, and the Supreme Court ruling is a direct response of the president failing to address this issue

QUESTION: Does (Romney) support the law as it was drafted in Arizona?

GORKA: "The governor supports the right of states, that's all we're going to say on this issue."

QUESTION: Does he have a position on the law, or no position?

GORKA: The governor has his own immigration policy that he laid out in Orlando and in the primary which he would implement as president which would address this issue. Whereas Obama has had four years in the office and has yet to address it in a meaningful way.

QUESTION: But does the Governor have a position on the Arizona law besides supporting the right of states?

GORKA: This debate is sprung from thepresident failing to address this issue, so each state is left and has the power to draft and enact their own immigration policy.

QUESTION: But the Arizona law does very specific things, does the governor support those things that the Arizona law does?

GORKA: We've addressed this.

QUESTION: What is his position on theactual law in Arizona?

GORKA: Again, Each state has the right within the Constitution to craft their own immigration laws since the federal government has failed.

QUESTION: But does he think about the law in Arizona? You're just talking about the states right to have a law but you're not giving any position on the actual law.

GORKA: Ultimately this debate comes back down to the federal government and the president failing to address this. If the president followed through on his campaign promise to address illegal immigration in the first year, this debate wouldn»t be necessary.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that he has no opinion on the Arizona law?

GORKA: Look, again, I»ll say it again and again and again for you. The governor understands that states have their own right to craft policies to secure their own borders and to address illegal immigration.

QUESTION: You're not answering - what does he think about the policy in Arizona? Is it fair to say he has no opinion? You're refusing to give us an answer.

GORKA: "Arizona, like many other states in this nation, take it upon themselves to craft policies for their own specific states. Governor has said repeatedly that states are a laboratory of democracy, what one state crafts may not work in others but ultimately this, again, goes back to the president failing to deliver on his campaign promises. As candidate Obama, he said he would address immigration in the first year and hasn't and instead put in a stopgap measure four and a half months before the election.

QUESTION: The statement that Mitt Romney released this morning doesn't say one way or another whether he agrees with the Supreme Court decision. Does he have a reaction as to whether he agrees with this decision?

GORKA: Again, Jim. The states have the right to craft their immigration policy when the federal government has failed to do so.

QUESTION: But the Supreme court just said three out of four of those, the states didn't have the right to do that, so how does that square with the governor's statement?

GORKA: States have the right to crafttheir own immigration policies....and those [inaudible] went through the process.

QUESTION: But we don't have a statement one way or the other whether he agrees with this decision today by the Supreme Court-the statement itself doesn't say.

GORKA: This country would be better served if the president wasn't suing states but the president was actually fulfilling his campaign promises to enact an immigration policy.

QUESTION: So if your statement stands as you expressed it then, you want to remain silent as to whether or not Romney accepts today's decision.

GORKA: Arizona has the ability under the 10th amendment to address an issue that the federal government--

QUESTION: But that wasn't part of - the judges were not ruling whether or not the 10th amendment exists today. Theywere ruling on an Arizona statute. And you're saying that his support for the 10th amendment is effectively silent on today's discussion, are you not?

GORKA: The bottom line Carl is that if the president had followed through on his campaign promise and addressed this issue, we'd be better off. The governor's put forward his own proposal.

QUESTION: But it's safe to say he sides with the state of Arizona in this case before the court today.

GORKA: I think states have a tough job. The federal government has failed to secure the borders and to enact policy on this issue, and the states are left to protect their own borders and to work within their own system and to come up with a policy that works for them.

QUESTION: Can states do anything, even if it defies the Constitution?

GORKA: That's not what I was saying, Julie.

QUESTION: But tell me where the distinction is.

GORKA: The bottom line, the fundamental problem of this debate is that the president has failed to enact a policy, has failed to address this, has failed to live up to his campaign promise again and again and again. This stems from states having to deal with an issue like illegal immigration, and come up with a policy that works for them.

QUESTION: Can you -- (overtalk)

GORKA: We have to get going. I'm morethan happy to talk about-- I'm with you guys all afternoon at the hotel. Wecan--

QUESTION: Why isn't the governor up here talking about this. He's not addressed any of this.

GORKA: The governor has issued a statement and if there is ah (Overtalk: The statement doesn't explain...) GORKA: Its still a long day. And there's still an opportunity.

QUESTION: You guys ready to get back to talking about the economy.

GORKA: Well, Jim, if you bring it up, I mean Latinos have suffered disproportionately under this Obama economy. As you know the unemployment rate under Latinos went up to 11 percent, that's unacceptable, more Latino children are living in poverty than any other minority group in this country...

QUESTION: So lets have the governor come back and talk about the economy...

GORKA: "At the end of the day it is about the economy and it's the number one issue among Latino voters and this president has again, failed on that issue."

QUESTION: But charter a plane only so that he can come back and talk to us about healthcare, not immigration?

GORKA: "We charter planes to make it easier for you guys to travel and cover the campaign. It's not for -- this isn't the Supreme Court plane. This is the Romney campaign plane that we've brought together to make it easier for you guys.

QUESTION: If there was a health careruling but apparently not if there was an immigration ruling.

GORKA: "We charter planes regardless of what the Supreme Court does, as you were familiar with last week. We had plenty of planes and plenty of rides on our bus tour. This is an easier way for you guys to travel and cover the candidate. In style, I might add."

QUESTION: The Supreme Court said today that several parts of what Arizona passed were unconstitutional. Does the governor agree with the Supreme Court or does he agree with Arizona?

GORKA: Our position is clear on this.

QUESTION: Its not.

GORKA: it is. The president has failed to address illegal immigration. States have the right to craft policy to address those issues and to work with their citizens.


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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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