Mitt Romney on Immigration
Former Republican Governor (MA); presidential nominee-apparent
ROMNEY: My advice to the Democrats--and to the President in particular--is: take a breath. The President said that he was not on the ballot in the election that was just held but that his policies were. And the American people sent a very clear message: they're not happy. The President ought to let the Republican Congress come together with legislation which relates to immigration. And he can veto it or not, as opposed to doing something unilaterally and in a way which is extra-constitutional. He's making it more difficult for there to be a permanent solution to this issue. What he's proposing to do is a temporary solution which would potentially be reversed by a Republican President. It's the wrong way to go. It doesn't help the people that are really are hurt by the lack of policy in this area. And it's going to set back the needed reforms that the American people want.
A: Let me respond more broadly and then get to the specific of young people who were brought here through no fault of their own, and are now going to school here. The immigration system, I think we all agree, is broken and it's been a political football for years and years. It needs to be fixed. Also, instead of having our diversity visas offered, we provide instead the chance to pull families together. I want that to be the favored system for immigration. I also believe that we should have temporary work visas consistent with the needs of the employment community and by the way, if the student does so well that they get an advanced degree, I'd staple the green card to their diploma. For those young people who, for instance, serve in our military, that they should be able to become a permanent resident.
A: I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home & that's what I mean by self-deportation. People decide if they want to go back to the country of their origin and get in line legally to be able to come to this country. Look, legal immigration is critical for America. I love legal immigration. But at the same time, to protect legal immigration we have to secure our borders and what I like about the Arizona law was the employment verification system.
Q: Should the whole country follow Arizona's immigration laws?
A: The reason there's an Arizona law is because the federal government, and specifically, Pres. Obama didn't solve immigration problem when he came into office. The right answer is ultimately to have a federal solution; [then] we don't have to have states trying to find solutions of their own.
But for Republicans seeking their party's nomination, the calculation can be different: it is more important to gain white working-class votes by staking out the position of being the toughest candidate on illegal immigrants than it is to court the ascending bloc of Latinos, whose influence registers mainly in the general election. So in the 2012 primary the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney promoted the idea of a high-tech fence stretching the entire length of the US-Mexico border, nearly 2,000 miles long.
GINGRICH: I actually agree that self-deportation will occur if you're single. I would just suggest that grandmothers or grandfathers aren't likely to self-deport.
ROMNEY: Those who come into the country legally would be given an identification card, and if employers hire someone without a card, then those employers would be severely sanctioned. If you do that, people who have come here illegally won't be able to find work. And over time, those people would tend to leave the country, or self-deport. I don't think anyone is interested in going around and rounding up people around the country and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants into America. Let's focus our attention on how to make legal immigration work and stop illegal immigration.
ROMNEY: [to Gingrich]: Did you say that?
GINGRICH: No. What I said was, we want everybody to learn English. I didn't use the word "Spanish." We do not want anyone trapped in a situation where they cannot get a job, they cannot rise. And that's why I think English should be the official language of government, and that's why I think every young American should learn English.
ROMNEY: I think our position on English in our schools and in our nation is the same, which I believe English should be the official language of the United States. I also believe that in our schools, we should teach kids in English. I fought for a program to have English immersion in our schools so our kids could learn in English. I think we agree on this: Kids in this country should learn English so they can have all the jobs and all the opportunity of people who are here.
ROMNEY: Look, amnesty is a magnet. What when we have had in the past, programs that have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that's going to only encourage more people to come here illegally. I'm not going to start drawing lines here about who gets to stay. The answer is we're going to have a system that gives people who come legally a card that identifies them as coming here legally. Employers are going to be expected to inspect that card, see if they're here legally. On that basis we're going to be able to bring you to this country.
Conclusion: Instead of transforming immigrants into the "bogeyman," he makes legal immigrants allies, major components in keeping the country competitive around the world. Under Romney, America could become known as the melting pot for the world's best and brightest, the still shining city on the hill.
SANTORUM: You attract Latino voters by talking about the importance of immigration & the importance of having English as the official language of this country. [But we need to finish the border fence].
HUNTSMAN: We can secure the border through means of fences, but the H1B visa process is broken.
ROMNEY: The question began by saying how do we attract Latino voters. And the answer is by telling them what they know in their heart, which is they or thei ancestors did not come here for a handout. If they came here for a handout, they'd be voting for Democrats. They came here for opportunity and freedom. And that's what we represent. And that's why we'll win collecting support from Latinos across the country. With regards to illegal immigration, of course we build a fence and of course we do not give instate tuition credits to people who come here illegally. That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America's great beneficence.
A: Well, first, we ought to have a fence.
Q: The whole fence, 2,600 miles?
A: Yes. We've got to have a fence, or the technologically approved system to make sure that we know who's coming into the country, number one. Number two, we ought to have enough agents to secure that fence and to make sure that people are coming over are caught. But the third thing [is to address employers attracting illegal immigrants].
A: Well, of course not. We're not looking to bring people in for jobs that can be done by Americans. But at the same time, we want to make sure that America welcomes the best and brightest in the world. If someone comes here and gets a PhD in physics, that's the person I'd like to staple a green card to their diploma, rather than saying to them to go home. I want the best & brightest to be metered into the country based upon the needs of our employment sector & create jobs by bringing technology and innovation that comes from people around the world. I like legal immigration I'd have the number of visas that we give to people here that come here legally, determined in part by the needs of our employment community. But we have to secure our border and crack down on those that bring folks here and hire here illegally.
We follow the same deeply counterproductive course when we strictly limit the number of visas we award to scientists & technicians. If we want to continue to lead the world in innovation, we need the most intelligent & educated individuals. What we now do instead is strictly limit how long and how many highly skilled foreign applicants can be admitted and how long they can stay. At the same time, millions of people without these skills enter the country illegally. Our immigration practices are literally upside down. The best and the brightest wait in line to come here, but those with only little education are permitted to stay.
There were a number of advocates that remained fierce defenders of bilingual education. In speaking to immigrant parents, I was surprised to learn that many of them had wanted their child to attend regular English-speaking classes.
I became even more ardent proponent of English immersion and sought to rapidly implement it throughout the state. Under the immersion program , recent immigrant children who spoke no or little English would initially receive instruction in their native tongue, but would be moved into English instruction as soon as possible, Time and again, I heard from parents in the immigrant community who applauded the decision to scrap bilingual education in favor of English.
In a November 2005 interview with the Boston Globe, he described immigration reform proposal advanced by McCain as “reasonable.” He now denounces it as an “amnesty plan.” In December 2006, he signed agreement authorizing state troopers to round up illegal immigrants.
A: My plan is this, which is for those that have come here illegally and are here illegally today, no amnesty. Now, how do people return home? Under the ideal setting, at least in my view, you say to those who have just come in recently, we’re going to send you back home immediately, we’re not going to let you stay here. You just go back home. For those that have been here, let’s say, five years, and have kids in school, you allow kids to complete the school year, you allow people to make their arrangements, and allow them to return back home. Those that have been here a long time, with kids that have responsibilities here and so forth, you let stay enough time to organize their affairs and go home.
A: They should go home eventually. They should have a set period during which they sign up for permanent residency or for citizenship. But there’s a set period where upon they should return home. And if they’ve been approved for citizenship or for a permanent residency, well, it would be a different matter. But for the great majority, they’ll be going home.
A: Of course not. But here’s what I would do. I’d say once you’ve put in place an employment verification system--and that’s a big phrase to describe something pretty simple. I’d say to anybody who’s coming here legally, they get a card with their name, biometric information, a number and their work status, and you then say to employers, “If you want to hire someone that’s not a US citizen with a valid Social Security number, you ask for the card. You then verify it on the computer, and you can hire them if it’s a valid card if they have a card. If they don’t have a card and you hire them anyway, then you’re going to be subject to the same kind of sanctions you get for not paying your taxes.
In 2004, the Boston Globe reported that Romney was reluctant to veto the tuition proposal--and not at all the certain, sure-footed decision maker portrayed in the ad. At the time, Romney said, “I hate the idea of in any way making it more difficult for kids, even those who are illegal aliens, to afford college in our state.”
Romney wasn’t a hardliner on immigration until late in his tenure as governor. None of the specifics presented here are false, but the ad presents a black-and-white contrast that doesn’t exist in reality.
A: You know, I have the occasion to talk to people who have loved ones that are hoping to come to this country, to be reunited with family members. And they’re staying in their home countries applying legally. I believe that those people ought to be the first ones to get to come to this country. Those who have come illegally, in my view, should be given the opportunity to get in line with everybody else, but there should be no special pathway for those that have come here illegally to jump ahead of the line or to be come permanent residents or citizens. They should be treated like everybody else who wants to come to this country. We’re going to protect legal immigration. At the same time, we’re going to enforce the law, show that we’re a nation of laws, and welcome the people who have been standing in line first.
A: You know, we’re a very compassionate people. We’re also a people who follow the law. And the landscaper at my home is an old friend, and when he made a mistake the first time, I told him in no uncertain terms, you have to make sure that anybody that works on my property is legal. And he did his best, but he made a mistake. And apparently, two people he had there were not legal. And we terminated that relationship. And that became a big news story. But employers like this landscape company, and he’s Hispanic American, he doesn’t have a way to determine whether the people he’s hiring are legal or illegal. That’s why we need an employment verification system to identify the fact that legal aliens that come here are legal, are entitled to work.
A: The Constitution indicates that those that are born here do become US citizens by virtue of being born here. But if they’re born here from parents who come across the border illegally and bring them here illegally, in my view, we should not adopt, then, these chain migration policies that say, you’ve got a child here that’s a US citizen, and the whole family can come in. That, in my opinion, is a mistake. We are a nation of laws. We’re going to enforce the laws. We’re not going to cut off immigration; we’re going to keep immigration alive and thriving. But we’re going to end the practice of illegal immigration. It’s not inhumane. It’s humanitarian. It’s compassionate. We’re going to end illegal immigration to protect legal immigration.
The fact is, as reported by the Boston Globe in 2006, several illegals worked at Romney’s home in Belmont MA, off and on over a period of eight years, sometimes working 11-hour days. They were, however, employed by a contractor, and not directly by Romney. So, Giuliani was technically correct to say that “illegal immigrants were being employed,” since he used the passive voice and didn’t specify who did the employing. Romney could also argue that he was technically correct to say “I did not” have illegals working, since he didn’t employ them directly.
MCCAIN: Well, because amnesty, according to the dictionary, is forgiveness. The proposal that we had would require fines, would require back in the line, would require deportation for some. It would require an enormous amount of time, as long as 13 years, before anyone could even be eligible for citizenship in this country.
ROMNEY: First of all, the Z visa that was offered in that Senate bill let everybody who’s here illegally, other than criminals, stay here for the rest of their lives. And that may not be technically amnesty, but it is certainly amnesty in fact. [The magnet for illegal immigrants, besides] having amnesty, is saying to individuals, if you come here and you’re willing to work here and pay taxes, we’ll sign you up. That’s not the right message. We’ve got to enforce the law, welcoming legal immigration, but ending illegal immigration.
ROMNEY: Well, one is to enforce the law as it exists. The law that was passed in 1986 asked for us to secure the border & said also to put in place an employment verification system. Neither one of those was done. So let’s make sure that we enforce the law as it exists. And if you want to improve [the McCain reform] bill, take that Z visa and make it temporary, instead of a permanent right to stay in America.
A: Let me make it real clear--I’m not anti-immigrant. I love immigrants. I love legal immigrants coming to our country. I’m happy to communicate to them, and I hope they vote for me. And I’m happy to have people all over the country, and I’m going to reach out to them in any language I can to have them vote for me and understand why I’m going to support making this a great land.
I very firmly believe that we have to make sure that we enforce our borders, that we have an employment verification system, and that those people who have come here illegally do not get an advantage to become permanent residents, they do not get a special pathway. That’s the problem I have with the bill the Kennedy-McCain bill.
ROMNEY: Never given that a lot of thought, but with Arnold sitting there, I’ll give it some thought, but probably not.
Gov. THOMPSON: No.
HUCKABEE: After I’ve served eight years as president, I’d be happy to change the Constitution for Governor Schwarzenegger.
A: My view is that we should put in a place a permanent solution. What the president did was take no action; he put in place something he called a stop-gap measure. Temporary. These kids deserve something better than temporary. They deserve a permanent solution.
Q: But, with all due respect, you are reluctant to provide details on a permanent solution? Are you going to deport the DREAMers or not?
A: Well, we're not going to round up people and deport them. That includes the kids and the parents. I would be in support of a program that said the people who serve in our military could be permanent residents. Marco Rubio's "Dream and Achieve Act" had a number of features that said kids that get higher education could become permanent residents. I will solve it on a permanent basis consistent with those principles.
Q: So you're going to allow them to stay?
A: I'm not going to be rounding people up and deporting them.
ROMNEY: It's an argument I just can't follow, to go to the University of Texas, if you're an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? That's $22,000 a year. Four years of college, almost $100,000 discount if you are an illegal alien. If you are a US citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn't make sense to me. And that kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense. We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits like a $100,000 discount for going to the University of Texas. That shouldn't be allowed. It makes no sense at all.
And I said, what do you mean, the magnet? And they said, when employers are willing to hire people who are here illegally, that's a magnet, and it draws them in. And sanctuary cities, giving tuition breaks to the kids of illegal aliens, employers that knowingly hire people who are here illegally. Those things also have to be stopped.
If we want to secure the border, we have to make sure we have a fence, determining where people are, enough agents to oversee it, & turn off that magnet. We can't talk about amnesty, we cannot give amnesty to those who have come here illegally.
We've got 4.7 million people waiting in line legally. Let those people come in first, and those that are here illegally, they shouldn't have a special deal.
He offered contrary views on trade and stood up for an Arkansas program that allowed the children of illegal immigrants to apply for college scholarships. When Romney attacked the program, Huckabee cut him down. "I'm standing here tonight because I got an education. If I hadn't had the education, I wouldn't be standing on this stage. I might be picking lettuce. In all due respect, we're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did."
A: Let me tell you what I did as governor. I said no to driver’s licenses for illegals. I said, number two, we’re going to make sure that those that come here don’t get a tuition break in our schools, which I disagree with other folks on that one. Number three, I applied to have our state police enforce the immigration laws in May, seven months before I was out of office.
ROMNEY: We all know Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have it wrong on illegal immigration. Our party should not make that mistake.
As Governor, I authorized the State Police to enforce immigration laws. I opposed driver’s licenses & in-state tuition for illegal aliens.
As president, I’ll oppose amnesty, cut funding for sanctuary cities and secure our borders.
Legal immigration is great, but illegal immigration--that’s got to stop
During his tenure, at least f Orleans didn’t officially deem themselves “sanctuaries,” but Somerville affirmed its “long-standing policies in support of all immigrants,” while Orleans forbade city officials from turning in illegal immigrants without probable cause.
We asked Romney’s campaign if he had acted against these cities, but they didn’t provide us with any examples. As far as we were able to determine in our own research, Romney made no attempts to penalize, censure, or cut funding to them.
ROMNEY: Governors aren’t responsible for mayors who are not following the law. And, actually, in my case, as soon as I learned about a program in the department of ICE that we could have our state police authorized to enforce the law, I did just that so that in sanctuary cities in our state--and nonsanctuary cities--the law would be enforced. But this is a place where Mayor Giuliani and I just simply disagree. I think we should reduce federal funding to cities that call themselves sanctuary cities. I think saying as he did, if you happen to be an undocumented alien, we want you in New York, we’ll protect you in New York, I think that contributed to 3 million illegals in this country becoming 12 million illegals coming into this country.
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