As governor of Massachusetts and as a presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a very hard line on illegal immigration. In fact, he went further than President Trump when it comes to holding the employers of illegal aliens accountable.
In a February 16 interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Romney stood by positions taken while running for President with the exception of the Dream Act. Romney told the Tribune:
“I welcome legal immigrants to our country, and those who follow the process and come here legally are welcome and if they become citizens they’re as much an American citizen as anybody else. At the same time, we have to stop illegal immigration. I was probably more conservative on that than most Republicans. I won’t mention names but I was not in favor of the DREAM Act. Now that’s water under the bridge. President Obama made representations with regards to the Dreamers that have changed circumstances. But I’m pretty hard on stopping illegal immigration and that meant, for me, we need to have a border fence or wall or whatever you want to call it. We need to put in place a very effective e-verify system and heavily penalize companies that hire folks who are here illegally. I also agree with the president that we should stop the chain migration approach that immigration has taken. And I think he’s right about this lottery program. But I don’t think we’re far apart on immigration. That’s probably a part of where I’m more conservative than most.”
So what exactly were Romney’s positions during his two presidential campaigns?
Romney supported a border fence. In 2011, at a Florida Tea Party Debate, Romney said “With regards to illegal immigration, of course we build a fence.” In 2011, at a debate in Simi Valley California, Romney said: “Well, first, we ought to have a fence.” When asked if he was talking about the whole 2,600 miles Romney replied “Yes.”
Romney opposed the Dream Act. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney said that he would veto the Dream Act if it passed Congress. Romney’s position has since evolved as noted in his interview with the Salt Lake Tribune and then in an interview a month later with the Ogden Standard Examiner. “Circumstances changed,” Romney told the Standard Examiner. “Those that are here, so-called ‘Dreamers,’ I would now allow to remain in the country legally. As to becoming citizens, I don’t think there should be a special pathway for citizenship for ‘Dreamers.’ I think they should get in line like everybody else.”
Romney supported merit based immigration. In his book, No Apology, Romney wrote: “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.”
Romney supported holding employers hiring illegal aliens accountable. On Meet the Press in 2007, Romney said: “I’d say once you’ve put in place an employment verification system…you then say to employers, ‘If you want to hire someone that’s not a US citizen with a valid Social Security number… then you’re going to be subject to the same kind of sanctions you get for not paying your taxes.”
Romney opposed amnesty. In January 2008, during a Republican presidential primary debate, Romney said that all illegal aliens should be given a period of time to get their affairs in order and then return to their home countries. “We’ve got to enforce the law, welcoming legal immigration, but ending illegal immigration.” In 2011 he said, “Look, amnesty is a magnet.”
Romney supported denying illegal aliens jobs to encourage self-deportation. “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.”
Romney opposed sanctuary cities. “During a 2007 debate, Romney said, “….I think we should reduce federal funding to cities that call themselves sanctuary cities.”
Romney supported the 287g program. Romney signed the Massachusetts state police up for the federal 287g program that allows state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
Romney opposed driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. While Governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s threat to veto a bill that would have allowed illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses was enough to ensure that the bill never passed.
Romney opposed in-state tuition for illegal aliens. As governor, Romney vetoed an in-state tuition bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts legislature in 2004. In 2011, Romney said: “….of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who come here illegally. That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America’s great beneficence.”
Romney supported the Arizona Law (SB1070). “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.”
Romey supported English as the official language of the U.S. “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.”
Given the above, other candidates in the U.S. Senate race will be hard pressed to stake out a more conservative position on legal and illegal immigration than Romney has over the years. Viewed in terms of immigration policy, it is easy to see why President Trump was so quick to endorse Romney to replace Orin Hatch in the United States Senate.
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