What Are the Candidates Saying About Immigration Reform? Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney on Immigration
And he has entered the race...
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney formed a presidential exploratory committee last week and began a high-profile fundraising effort yesterday all but declaring his run for the presidency.
Mitt Romney's line is that he supports legal immigration: "We need to make America more attractive for legal immigrants for citizens and less attractive for illegal immigrants. I want to see more immigration in our country, but more legal immigration and less illegal immigration."
This is his attempt to straddle the acknowledgment that immigrant workers are necessary to maintain our country's economic strength and his desire to be seen as an immigration hardliner. His positions on immigration are clear attempts to court the right wing of the his party and to distinguish himself from other likely Republican candidates such as Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain, who are more moderate on the issue. Apparently he didn't learn in November that anti-immigrant candidates across the board were rejected by voters.
Mitt Romney sounds a lot like many of those candidates. He has spoken in favor of cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, supporting construction of a 700 mile fence along the border and calling for the stationing of National Guard Troops there until the fence is completed. Furthermore, he is the first Presidential contender to support local enforcement of immigration laws. At the tail-end of his term as Governor, he signed an agreement with the federal government to deputize Massachusetts state troopers to arrest immigrants on civil immigration violations. He signed this agreement despite overwhelming opposition from law enforcement across the country to enforcing federal immigrant laws. State police understand that they have a lack of training to enforce such complex federal laws, and that this new mandate would prevent them from effectively policing their communities if crime victims and witnesses are hesitant to work with them out of fear of deportation. The International Association of Chiefs of Police as well as over 50 local police departments have come out with official statements rejecting this type of proposal. This idea was even opposed by the co-chairman of Romney's own Advisory Committee on Immigrants and Refugees. Mitt Romney has made this impractical and dangerous initiative his prime immigration issue.
Romney is also outspoken on cracking down on the employment of undocumented workers. However, he has said nothing to address the root reasons why so many undocumented workers come here and easily find employment. His platform has been a simple one calling for a law-abiding society. However, it has been widely reported that Romney has firsthand experience with the economic contributions that immigrants make. He has apparently hired a landscaping company for more than a decade that relies on immigrant labor (including undocumented immigrant labor). This makes clear that Romney, who works very hard to appear tough on immigration, has no problem personally benefiting from a hardworking class of laborers. In response to calls of hypocrisy, Romney has not said much.
My advice to him is that instead of attempting to spin this story, Mr. Romney should come out in support of immigration reform that would allow immigrants to continue to benefit our economy (since he clearly sees the need) while strengthening their rights in the workplace. The 12 million undocumented workers here are playing a vital role in our economy but they are being exploited for corporate profit and to the possible detriment of hardworking U.S. workers. A program that gives them rights in the workplace would even the playing field for all workers by allowing them to demand fair compensation for their work, thus eliminating the race to the bottom that currently exists. This would, in turn, raise wages and working conditions for everyone.
That would be a true presidential platform.