Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, speaks at a campaign event at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Denver, Colo. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Young illegal immigrants who receive temporary work permits to stay in the United States under an executive order issued by President Barack Obama would not be deported under a Mitt Romney administration, the GOP presidential hopeful told The Denver Post Monday.

"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 said. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."

In June, Obama issued an executive order that will allow the so-called "dreamers" — kids who were brought here by their illegal

immigrant parents when they were young — a temporary reprieve from deportation if they stay out of trouble and meet certain requirements such as graduating from a U.S. high school.


The Obama administration has sharply criticized Romney's earlier ideas for immigration reform, which have called for all citizens living in the U.S. illegally to self-deport.

Romney said in a sit-down interview with The Post aboard his campaign bus ahead of a Denver rally that he would work with Congress in the first year to pass permanent immigration reform legislation.

He didn't furnish specifics on that plan, but has said in previous interviews that students who served in the military may get a path to citizenship.

"I actually will propose a piece of legislation which will reform our immigration system to improve legal immigration so people don't have to hire lawyers to figure out how to get here legally," Romney said. "The president promised in his first year, his highest priority, that he would reform immigration and he didn't. And I will."

Obama's order mirrors the "DREAM" Act, which has been dead on arrival in every Congress that's tried to pass it. It was blocked by Senate Republicans two years ago.

Romney also was hazy about the future of Colorado's medical marijuana industry, which reaps more than $5 million a year in state sales taxes, saying his administration would enforce federal drug laws, that prohibit marijuana for any use.

"I oppose marijuana being used for recreational purposes and I believe the federal law should prohibit the recreational use of marijuana," he said.

Romney will spend Tuesday holed up preparing for the first presidential debate Wednesday at the University of Denver. He said he was looking forward to sharing a stage with the president to clear up distortions of the last few months.

"I think what's going to happen in this debate is each of us will get the opportunity to describe our pathway forward for America," Romney said. "And for the last several weeks and months, the president has dramatically distorted my own views. I look forward to the debate so people will understand what I actually believe."

Romney said he knew not everyone was going to agree with him after Wednesday's face-off.

"Do they want to continue with the status quo, which has lead to a circumstance where we now have three years where each year the rate of growth in our economy has slowed," he said. "The policies of the past are not working."

After the interview, Romney delivered an economic speech to a crowd of roughly 6,000 at the Wings Over the Rockies air and space museum in Denver's Lowry neighborhood.

The Obama campaign dismissed Romney's speech by arguing his plan would ease taxes on the wealthy and raise taxes for the middle class, a claim Romney disputes.

"The economy is not in recovery," Romney said to a lively crowd packed in an old hanger full of old airplanes. "We're not seeing a real recovery. The president's policies have not worked."

Allison Sherry: 202-662-8907, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.