One of the biggest myths of the 2012 presidential campaign, propagated by Team Romney and the mainstream media, is that Willard Mitt Romney is a hard-liner on immigration issues. One easily could reach that conclusion if Romney were judged on his speeches, press releases, and sound bites.
However, as all conservatives should know, it is foolish to predict how a politician will govern based on campaign rhetoric. The more reliable way to determine a candidate‘s position is to review his actual record.
It is clear the Romney campaign, beginning with his 2008 bid, decided to use immigration as one of the few hooks it had to lure conservatives to its camp. With Romney’s dismal record on fiscal and social issues, his consultants must have concluded that with so little said about immigration by Romney while governor, they could get away with creating a phony record.
Indeed, if one digs deeply, a disturbing pattern emerges. Romney’s “hard-line” positions on immigration suddenly arose as he began thinking of running for president in 2006. Moreover, his current views on immigration usually contradict what he actually said and did as governor. It appears that Romney’s immigration positions have been created solely for his presidential run or were based upon events that simply never occurred.
Romney’s Support for McCain’s Amnesty
Romney has made opposition to any amnesty proposal a central campaign plank. This message first surfaced during the run-up to his 2008 race when his potential rival, Senator John McCain, introduced an immigration measure that included amnesty. Romney attacked it:
I strongly opposed today’s bill going through the Senate. It is the wrong approach. Any legislation that allows illegal immigrants to stay in the country indefinitely, as the new “Z-Visa” does, is a form of amnesty . . . today’s Senate agreement falls short of the actions needed to both solve our country’s illegal immigration problem and also strengthen our legal immigration system.
Moreover, Romney specifically opposed any kind of “pathway to citizenship” for illegal aliens, saying, “I don’t think there should be a pathway to citizenship for people who are here illegally.”
And quite consistently during the 2012 campaign, Romney made clear in nearly every debate that he opposed amnesty for illegal aliens in any and all forms whatsoever.
However, these statements conflict with Romney’s earlier view on amnesty. Romney gave the Boston Globe an interview in 2005 in which he argued that the McCain-Kennedy immigration-reform bill was “quite different” from an amnesty bill and even called the bill “reasonable”:
I think an amnesty program is what — which is all the illegal immigrants who are here are now citizens, and walk up and get your citizenship. What the president has proposed, and what Senator McCain and Cornyn have proposed, are quite different than that. They require people signing up for a, well, registering and receiving a registration number. Then working here for six years and paying taxes — not taking benefits. . . . And then at the end of that period, registering to become a citizen. . . . And I think that those are reasonable proposals.
And in contrast to his attacks on a “pathway to citizenship,” Romney specifically supported such an approach while governor, saying:
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.
But Romney didn’t stop there. In 2006, as reported by the AP, Romney even criticized Republicans who didn’t support the Bush-McCain amnesty legislation:
Meantime, one of McCain’s potential rivals for the GOP nomination, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has made it known that he supports the president’s immigration position, saying that Republicans who have broken rank with Bush “made a big mistake.”