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GOP2012: Republican debate, January 19th, 2012
The Reality
Fact Check

Mitt Romney Will Say Anything on Immigration

February 22, 2012 at 9:28 p.m. ET


In tonight’s debate, Mitt Romney said that the controversial Arizona immigration law should be a model for the nation. Along with his embrace of “self-deportation” and avowal to veto the DREAM Act, Romney would be the most extreme anti-immigration presidential nominee in recent history.


Romney Is Furthest To The Right Of The Republican Field On Immigration. “But Perry’s first major stumble in the primary race occurred when Romney attacked him from the right on the question of immigration: A generic ‘ideology score’ can’t capture the fact that, for millions of voters (especially Hispanics) who see immigration as a make-or-break issue, it is Romney, not Perry, who is furthest to the right.” [Bloomberg, 11/14/11]

New York Times Editorial: Romney Has “Lurched Toward The Extremist Right” On Immigration. “Mitt Romney, who used to try to sound like a moderate on immigration, has dropped the pretense. On Wednesday, he proudly accepted the endorsement of the anti-immigrant activist Kris Kobach, architect of the nation’s most radical immigration crackdowns, including the unconstitutional show-your-papers laws in Arizona and Alabama. Mr. Romney has flipped and flopped all over on immigration, but in allying himself with Mr. Kobach he has lurched toward the extremist right. ‘Kris has been a true leader on securing our borders and stopping the flow of illegal immigration into this country,’ Mr. Romney said.”  [Editorial, New York Times, 1/11/12]

In His Endorsement Of Romney, Kansas Secretary Of State Kris Kobach Said “We Need A President Who Will Finally Put A Stop To A Problem That Has Plagued Our Country For A Generation,” Illegal Immigration And Claimed Undocumented Workers Are “Taking Jobs” From Citizens And “Public Benefits At Taxpayer Expense.” [Romney For President, 1/11/12]

  • KS Secretary Of State Kris Kobach: “All Of The Other Candidates Stand To The Left Of Romney On Immigration.” “‘All of the other candidates stand to the left of Romney on immigration,’ Kobach said. ‘This is an issue that people with weak backbones sometimes have trouble taking a position on, and Mitt Romney has shown some real backbone on this issue.’” [The Hill, 1/13/12]


When Asked If He Would Veto The DREAM Act, Romney Said, “The Answer Is Yes.” “‘The question is if I were elected and Congress were to pass the Dream Act, would I veto it and the answer is yes,’ Romney said.” [Reuters, 12/31/11; Le Mars, IA Meet & Greet, 12/31/11]

Romney: “I Have Indicated I Would Veto The Dream Act If Provisions Included In That Act To Say That People Who Are Here Illegally, If They Go To School Here Long Enough, Get A Degree Here That They Can Become Permanent Residents.” [Fox News/Wall Street Journal SC Debate, 1/16/12]


Romney: “I Support The Arizona Law.” “Immigration is an important topic for voters in the state that borders Mexico. Residents wanted to know if the candidates will support Arizona's controversial immigration law. ‘Well, I support the Arizona law by recognizing what Arizona has done -- underscored the failure of the federal government to do its job,’ Romney told the audience. ‘It has been the responsibility of the federal government to protect our borders. And the federal government has failed. If I'm lucky enough to be president of the United States, I won't fail,’ he said.” [CBN News, 9/15/11]

Arizona’s Immigration Law Requires Immigrations To Carry Their Alien Registration Documents At All Times And Requires Police To Question People If There’s Reason To Suspect They’re In The United States Illegally. “Arizona's law orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally.” [CNN, 4/23/10]

Arizona’s Immigration Law Would Make The Failure To Carry Immigration Documents A Crime And Give The Police Power To Detain Anyone Suspected Of Being In The Country Illegally. “The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.” [New York Times, 4/23/10]


Romney: Illegal Immigrants “Might Have A Transition Time To Allow Them To Set Their Affairs In Order And Then Go Back Home And Get In Line With Everyone Else. They Start At The Back Of The Line.”  “That’s the principle. And those that have come here illegally, they might have a transition time to allow them to set their affairs in order and then go back home and get in line with everybody else. And if they get in line and they apply to become a citizen or a green card they’ll be treated like everybody else. They start at the back of the line not at the front of the line. I just think we’re not going to go around the country rounding people up. That’s just too big of a task. There are what, eleven, twelve, fifteen million, who knows the total number. But what we are going to do is we’re going to give people a chance to transition- to be able to go home, to get in line, and then to ultimately if they would like to get a green card and enter this country legally. That in my view is the course that we’re going to have to take.” [Romney Town Hall, Cedar Rapids IA, 12/9/11]

Romney: “I Think We Have To Follow The Law And Insist Those Who Come Here Illegally, Ultimately Return Home, Apply, And Get In Line With Everyone Else.” [Fox News/Wall Street Journal SC Debate, 1/16/12]


Romney Said It Was “Amnesty” And A “Magnet” To Allow Undocumented Immigrants Who Have Been In The United States For Years, Have Abided The Law, Put Down Roots, Belong To A Church, Etc, To Stay In The United States. GINGRICH:  “I do suggest if you go back to your district, and you find people who have been here 25 years and have two generations of family and have been paying taxes and are in a local church, as somebody who believes strongly in family, you’ll have a hard time explaining why that particular subset is being broken up and forced to leave, given the fact that they’ve been law-abiding citizens for 25 years.” …BLITZER: Let’s broaden it out. Governor Romney, where do you stand? Are you with the speaker, that some of those illegal immigrants — I think — he didn’t say all — some of them, if they have roots, they belong to a church, for example, should be allowed to stay in this country?” Romney: “Look, amnesty is a magnet.”  …BLITZER: “Just to precise, and I’ll give Speaker Gingrich a chance to respond. Are you saying that what he’s proposing, giving amnesty in effect, or allowing some of these illegal immigrants to stay, is a magnet that would entice others to come to this country illegally?” ROMNEY: There’s no question. But to say that we’re going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you’re all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing.” [CNN/Heritage/AEI Debate, 11/22/11]

  • Romney Said Of Gingrich: “He's Indicated That For People Who Have Been Here A Certain Length Of Time We Should Let Them Stay In The Country With A Form Of Amnesty. I Think That Is A Mistake.” [American News Room, Fox, 12/7/11]


Romney Plan For Illegal Immigrants In The US: Cut Off Their Employment And “Enough Of Them Will Leave” For Their Native Countries. “Finally, after I asked the question for a seventh time, Fehrnstrom responded by emphasizing employer enforcement as a way to get illegal immigrants to leave through attrition. ‘Well, if you cut off their employment, if they can’t get work, if they can’t get benefits like in state tuition, they will leave,’ he said. I asked if that would take care of all of the illegal immigrants, and he said, ‘Enough of them would leave that it wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is today.’ Just to be clear, I wanted to know about those that still could remain under such a scenario. ‘I just answered your question Phil, and you keep hectoring me about it,’ he snapped. ‘You turn off the magnets, no in state tuition, no benefits of any kind, no employment. You put in place an employment verification system with penalties for employers that hire illegals, that will shut off access to the job market, and they will self retreat. They will go to their native countries.’” [Washington Examiner, 11/22/11]

  • New York Times Editorial: Romney’s Scheme For Fixing Immigration Is “Self-Deportation” – Mass Expulsion Through Making The Lives Of Immigrants “Unbearable.” “Mitt Romney has moved farthest to the fringe. His scheme for fixing immigration is mass expulsion: a fantasy of ridding the country of 11 million unauthorized immigrants by making their lives unbearable. The key to his harsh vision is ‘self-deportation,’ the deceptively bland-sounding policy that he introduced at a debate. It accepts that arresting and expelling so many millions would be impossible — like deporting the State of Ohio. But it replaces that delusion with another: That people can be made miserable enough to leave on their own.” [Editorial, New York Times, 2/20/12]
  • Sen. John McCain, A Romney Endorser: “Self-Deportation” Is Not A Humane Way To Treat Undocumented Immigrants In The United States. RAMOS: “You’re talking about a humane way. Is self-deportation a humane way to treat 11 million undocumented immigrants?” McCAIN: “No. I think there are some people who want to leave this country and return to the country they came from, but obviously it requires a broader solution than that, and we all know that.” [Al Punto, Univision, 2/5/12]
  • New York Times Editorial: “In States Where ‘Self-Deportation’ Is Official Policy, The Results Have Been Deplorable” And “Have Caused A Civil-Rights Emergency.” “In states where ‘self-deportation’ is official policy, the results have been deplorable. In Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County sweeps neighborhoods making mass arrests, and people are afraid to leave home. In Alabama, farm and construction workers have fled by the thousands; tornado victims are afraid to go to a shelter. These laws hijack the federal government’s responsibility for immigration and have caused a civil-rights emergency. But Mr. Romney’s response has been to condemn the Obama Justice Department for fighting them in court.” [Editorial, New York Times, 2/20/12]
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