Romney Said What About Immigrants?

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on April 12, 2012

In an otherwise mundane story by Dan Balz of the Washington Post concerning Mitt Romney's shift of focus to the president after Rick Santorum dropped from the Republican primary race, we find this observation, "He [Romney] also faces potentially major problems among Hispanics because of his positions on immigration and the harsh language he used to describe them during the GOP debates."

Really? Harsh language? I must have missed it, though I did watch and have read transcripts of all of the GOP debates.

Perhaps Mr. Balz was referring to this August debate:

Q: Governor Romney, turning to you, in 2008, you said you favored allowing American companies to hire more skilled foreign workers. With the unemployment rate now at 9.1 percent, do you still think that employers need to import more foreign labor?

MR: Well, of course not. We're not looking to bring people in and — in jobs that can be done by Americans. But at the same time, we want to make sure that America is a home and welcome to the best and brightest in the world. If someone comes here and gets a PhD in physics, that's the person I'd like to staple a green card to their diploma, rather than saying to them to go home.

Or Perhaps, Mr. Balz was referring to this from the same debate:

MR: Look,we are a nation of immigrants. We love legal immigration. But for legal immigration to work, we have to secure the border and we also have to crack down on employers that hire people who are here illegally.

Or perhaps it was Mr. Romney's remarks at the Reagan Library Debate, which dealt heavily with immigration that upset Mr. Balz:

Q: Governor, specifically, do you agree or disagree with some of the issues that the governor of Texas says, as far as what you would consider enough to be able to declare the border safe?

MR: Well, first, we ought to have a fence. Secondly, we ought to have enough agents to secure that fence and to make sure that people are coming over are caught. But the third thing — and I learned this when I was with border patrol agents in San Diego ... the reason they come in such great numbers is because we've left the magnet on.

And I said, what do you mean, the magnet? And they said, when employers are willing to hire people who are here illegally, that's a magnet, and it draws them in. And we went in and talked about sanctuary cities, giving tuition breaks to the kids of illegal aliens, employers that knowingly hire people who are here illegally. Those things also have to be stopped.

This is just a sampling of what Mr. Romney said about immigration during the GOP debates, but the quotes above are very representative of his views.

Where is the harsh language? Is Romney's view that illegal immigration should be stopped "harsh"? What of his view that incentives that make illegal immigration more attractive should be stopped, is that harsh too? Is supporting E-Verify or similar measures to ensure that employers only hire those to work who are legally authorized to do so "harsh"?

Of course saying you love immigrants as Mr. Romney said through the debates probably doesn't qualify. Nor does his desire to see more skilled immigrants have a chance to stay in the United States after their education here seem to easily count as "harsh". Perhaps it was his skepticism about allowing in more unskilled workers to compete with American workers struggling with a (then) unemployment rate of 9.1 percent that seemed "harsh".

Mr. Balz may have confused the substance of Mr. Romney's views with adopting a harsh tone. If that's the case then the only way to satisfy critics like Mr. Balz would be to hold no views other than standard Democratic immigration dogma. We need "comprehensive reform", a pathway to legalization for those already living here, more guest workers, and higher levels of future legal immigration.

Or, he may have lazily adopted the all-purpose meme of the GOP being "anti-immigrant", when in fact most major party figures are very favorably disposed toward legal immigration.

Yes, Herman Cain suggested an electrified border fence and there are fringe individuals and groups that truly are "anti-immigrant". But he and they are no more representative of GOP immigration thinking than Balz's confusion of tone and substance is reflective of competent journalism.