The Romney Flip in Immigration
By Leon H Wolf Posted in 2008 — Comments (46) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Full Disclosure: Leon Wolf is the E-Campaign Coordinator for the Sam Brownback for President Campaign.
At this point, finding opporutnistic changes of position on the part of Mitt Romney is about as difficult as hunting cows; this one, however, deserves special mention because it is on an issue that Romney is trying to use to separate himself from other candidates in the race like Senators Brownback and McCain: immigration. At the CPAC conference this year (Boston Globe has the audio), Romney said "McCain-Kennedy isn't the answer," and characterized it as "amnesty." Romney would apparently like everyone to believe that, had he been in the Senate in 2005-2006, he wouldn't have supported McCain-Kennedy. There's only one problem: In 2005-2006, he expressed public support for McCain-Kennedy.
In an interview with the Boston Globe in 2005, Romney made it clear that he did not believe that McCain-Kennedy was amnesty:
In a November 2005 interview with the Globe, Romney described immigration proposals by McCain and others as "quite different" from amnesty, because they required illegal immigrants to register with the government, work for years, pay taxes, not take public benefits, and pay a fine before applying for citizenship.
The audio of the interview is available on the Globe website for those who may fear that Romney's position is being misrepresented. In the audio clip, Romney demonstrates that he has command of the issues and proposals presented by McCain-Kennedy, that he considers them to be "quite different" from amnesty, and then he ends by calling them "reasonable proposals."
In March of 2006, Romney expounded on his position in the Lowell (MA) Sun:
I don’t believe in rounding up 11 million people and forcing them at gunpoint from our country … With these 11 million people, let’s have them registered, know who they are. Those who’ve been arrested or convicted of crimes shouldn’t be here; those that are here paying taxes and not taking government benefits should begin a process towards application for citizenship, as they would from their home country.
-Source, Romney Supports Immigration Program, But Not Granting ‘Amnesty’, Evan Lehmann, 3/30/06
Thus indicating that Goveror Romney still supported a path to citizenship, and did not consider such to be "amnesty." In September of 2006, Romney was even more explicit, saying that those who were opposing the President and McCain on immigration were "making a big mistake."
Six months later, as Romney was now running for the White House and attempting to create separation, he was calling the McCain-Kennedy proposal which he had on several previous occasions defended as being a "non-amnesty" proposal, and a "reasonable proposal," and one which he explicitly supported an "amnesty proposal" while standing with a get-tough-on-immigration sheriff for a photo op.
When the Globe confronted the Romney campaign about this abrupt and shocking about-face, the Romney campaign responded thusly:
Asked about the discrepancy between Romney's comments in 2005 and now, spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said: "Over the past year and a half, as the American people have learned all the details of the McCain-Kennedy approach, they have arrived at the same conclusion as Governor Romney: It rewards people who are here illegally."
First of all, the "American people" were not the subject of the question, Governor Romney was the subject of the question. Second, this answer is just not plausible; two full years ago as Romney himself was personally discussing the McCain-Kennedy program with the Boston Globe, he showed a remarkable command of the particulars of the proposal: he knew that it "required illegal immigrants to register with the government, work for years, pay taxes, not take public benefits, and pay a fine before applying for citizenship." Add to this that illegal immigrants were required to learn English and pass a history exam, and that's McCain-Kennedy. Not only did Governor Romney demonstrate command of these facts about McCain-Kennedy, he laid them out as being the things which specifically distinguished it from an amnesty plan.
I suppose that it's possible that Governor Romney will tell us how, sometime between September of 2006 and March of 2007, he had a "powerful personal experience" which convinced him to be adamantly opposed to a path-to-citizenship plan, in the same way that he had a "powerful personal experience" which led him to be opposed to abortion. However, the number and breadth of these "changes of heart" on Romney's part lead inescapably to a single conclusion: Romney's most powerful personal experience was announcing his candidacy for the Presidency.