Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry said the federal government should extend work visas permitting undocumented immigrants to move freely between the U.S. and their home countries, but stressed that he still opposes amnesty or a path to citizenship.

Speaking during an interview with CNN’s John King on Thursday, the Texas governor said that expectations that U.S. authorities are going to arrest and deport up to 15 million undocumented immigrants isn’t realistic. He added, however, that other Republicans, including fellow Texan George W. Bush, went too far when they previously proposed an immigration overhaul that included a path to citizenship.

The Texas governor also claimed his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, had once supported amnesty. Romney has drawn criticism for hiring a lawn care company that employed undocumented immigrants at his family’s property in a Boston suburb for a decade — but has also said amnesty is not appropriate for unauthorized immigrants.

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