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Presidential Candidate Visits Oklahoma

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A visa plan that would allow illegal immigrants to gain U.S. citizenship under certain conditions should be scrapped because it isn't fair to millions of people around the world who have waited in line to become citizens, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday.

``For those who are already here illegally, the 12 million, let them apply at some point for permanent residency or citizenship, but give them no advantage, give them no special pathway,'' Romney said after a fundraiser in downtown Tulsa, where about 100 people paid between $500 and $2,300 to attend. ``Let them apply like everybody else in the world.''

Romney, making his first stop in Oklahoma since declaring his candidacy, criticized the ``Z'' visa proposal in the current immigration bill being considered in the Senate. The visa would allow illegal immigrants to gain citizenship under certain conditions, including paying a $5,000 fine and learning English.

``So it's quite simple, don't make a permanent ``Z'' visa,'' he said. ``Instead, allow people who are here illegally to get in line with everybody else and take the same chances as everyone else.''

The former Massachusetts governor traded barbs this week with Arizona Senator John McCain, who backs the immigration compromise and challenged those who don't like it to come up with a better plan.

Earlier this week, McCain accused Romney of waffling on immigration and quipped, ``Maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn.'' It was a reference to reports that illegal immigrants had worked on Romney's suburban Boston property for a decade.

Romney supporters had also questioned whether McCain ever employed illegal immigrants as landscapers or in other positions at his home in Arizona.

Romney also sought Wednesday to list his homeland security credentials, saying he served on the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council and developed programs while governor to make sure his state was safe, among other examples.

``Homeland security is not just about responding after the bomb goes off, the key to homeland security is making sure the bomb doesn't go off,'' Romney said. ``And I've spent the last five years making sure that my state ... was safe such that we did not have the bomb go off.''

Before taking questions from reporters following the fundraiser, Romney read a statement criticizing recent media reports that the U.S. was engaged in a covert mission to destabilize the Iranian government.

Romney said these reports represented irresponsible reporting about ``a nation which is developing nuclear technology and supporting efforts to kill our soldiers in Iraq.''
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