Romney: Prefer if Supreme Court gave states "more latitude"

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns in Orlando, Fla.,June 21, 2012. On health care, Romney's position is clear, as is that of President Barack Obama. Obama defends his federal health care overhaul and Romney opposes it. But come next week, when the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the law, both sides are certain to scramble for political gain no matter the outcome. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Mitt Romney
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
(CBS News) SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Mitt Romney told a group of donors on Monday that he would have "preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to the states, not less," in response to the Court's ruling to strike down three contested provisions of a controversial Arizona immigration law.

Romney also accused President Obama of failing to make headway on immigration reform, saying the nation's immigration enforcement situation was "a muddle."

"It didn't have to be this way," Romney said during a fundraiser at a Scottsdale, Ariz., resort. "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 that want to come here legally, to dealwith illegal immigration, to deal with securing our borders. 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?"

It took several hours for Romney to fully address the merits of what the Court had done. Earlier in the day, his campaign released a statement blaming the president for failing to pass immigration reform but weighing in on neither the content of the decision nor the law itself.

(Watch reporter Rebecca Kaplan explain Romney's response.)

"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 the statement. "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." 

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 such as 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.

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