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Mitt Romney: A Path to Legalization for Those Without Status or Not?

November 29, 2011

On Tuesday, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a piece about Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and a leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, and his stance on immigration over the past several years.

In the past, Romney has made statements which appeared to support a path to legalization for those in the U.S. without legal status. However, in the most recent Republican debate, he attacked Newt Gingrich for his position on immigration as “amnesty” and “a ‘magnet’ that encourages illegal immigrants to move to America without seeking citizenship.”

In the Morning Edition report

Romney policy director Lanhee Chen argues that there is nothing inconsistent in Romney’s statements on immigration.

In a statement to NPR, Chen said, “Gov. Romney believes that illegal immigrants who apply for legal status should not be given any advantage over those who are following the law and waiting their turn.”

But even some Republican experts in this field say Romney has not been clear.

“It’s still very confusing as to what he’s proposing and what some of the solutions are that some of the other Republican candidates would be offering,” says Hector Barajas, a Republican political consultant in California who specializes in Latino issues.

Barajas says the murkiness around immigration should not surprise anyone. Republican candidates are trying to appeal to many different constituencies — anti-immigration hard-liners, Latino swing voters, small business owners who depend on foreign labor and more — all without alienating anyone.

A candidate who goes too far in one direction risks alienating Tea Party voters. But go too far in the other direction, and they risk alienating the fastest-growing minority group in the country.

Other articles have highlighted the difficult balancing act the Republican Party candidates must walk in order to secure the nomination and then position their candidacy to win the general election in 2012. A recent Rasmussen poll shows that among likely Republican voters in the 2012 election, Immigration is tied with National Security as the top issue.

And on Sunday, Bloomberg Businessweek reported

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who charged Republican presidential primary rival Newt Gingrich with proposing “amnesty” for certain illegal immigrants, took a nearly identical position in a 2006 Bloomberg interview, saying some foreigners who entered the U.S. illegally should be allowed to remain and gain legal status.

Romney, who at the time hadn’t yet declared his first presidential candidacy for 2008, told reporters and editors in Bloomberg News’s Washington bureau that the 11 million immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally “are not going to be rounded up and box-carred out.” Law-abiding people who pay taxes, learn English and don’t rely on government benefits should be allowed to “get in line” to apply for citizenship, he said.

“We need to begin a process of registering those people, some being returned, and some beginning the process of applying for citizenship and establishing legal status,” Romney said during the March 29, 2006, session.


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