Back in 2008, then presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) ran smear ads portraying fellow presidential contenders as soft on immigration. Yet, this past summer, Politico reported that Romney “signaled quietly to [Sen.] Graham that Republicans must address immigration before the campaign heats up.” Of course that didn’t happen and now that Romney is once again eying a presidential bid, he has to start figuring out what to say about immigration.
He could support immigration reform — but that would alienate the GOP Tea Party base. And if he goes the mudslinging route he pursued in 2008, it could cost Republicans the Latino vote and possibly the presidency. So, Romney has decided to play it safe by touting border security and opposing immigration reform on the grounds that he’d have to read a really long bill:
Well, I must admit, I’m kind of inclined to take problems sort of a bite at a time. And you know, if somebody wants do something comprehensively, why you can sit down and have that conversation. But you look at some of the legislation that’s passed over the past couple of years, and you’re talking about legislation of a couple thousand pages or more. I find that very difficult to deal with, both as a person who is supposed to read something like that and express an opinion on it or vote on it, but also as somebody who’s being regulated or being affected by the legislation.
Let’s look at things piece by piece. That’s the approach that I prefer, which would suggest let’s go after securing the border and making sure that those who come here legally are able to work here and those that come here illegally are no longer able to.
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 was a little under 800 pages long to be precise. Admittedly, that’s not exactly bedside reading. But even President George W. Bush, who was always committed to setting aside time for leisure, was able to get around to understanding the main points of the bill.
Romney also indicated that “you’ve got to have a system for identifying who is here illegally and who’s not.” According to him, “Once we have a system like that in place, with an identification card for those who come legally, you can finally get tough on employers that hire illegals.” There actually is a system in place. It’s called a Social Security card. Romney may be advocating for some kind of biometric identification. If he is, it may not go over so well for him with the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party.
Romney has flip-flopped on immigration throughout his career, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again. As governor, he once stated that he favored a sensible path to citizenship. Then he “embraced a ship-them-back-home, tough- guy approach” even though he was okay with hiring undocumented Guatemalan workers to clean up his yard. Romney’s own family fled to Mexico for three generations.