Romney backs “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday said his administration would rely on “self-deportation” to remove undocumented immigrants from the U.S.
During an NBC News debate in Tampa, Fla., the moderator pressed Romney over how he would deal with the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States in the absence of his unwillingness to have the government round them up and remove them from the country or provide a special path to citizenship for those already here.
“The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they could do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here,” he responded. “We’re not going to round people up.”
Further pressured by moderator Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times over whether that’s the exact system in place now, Romney said that he would institute a type of E-Verify system for the nation in which undocumented immigrants would be given a “transition period” then would be required to provide a card proving their legal status to employers.
Immigrants without such a card could choose to stay in the U.S. or leave the country and apply for citizenship, getting “in line behind everyone else.”
Romney’s immigration struck some as bizarre, though a version of the program was tried unsuccessfully during the Bush administration. The former Massachusetts governor has staked out a tough position on immigration, outflanking his chief rival Newt Gingrich on the right. But he’s been constantly pressured to articulate how he would handle the large undocumented population already in the United States.
Immigration is a complex issue in Florida, which is home to 1.5 million Latino voters who hail from many different nations to which varying rules apply to those wishing to come to the U.S. Around 10 percent of the Republican primary electorate in the Sunshine State is Latino, though many hail from the Cuban-American community for whom the issue isn’t as important since Cuban immigrants are allowed to stay legally if they reach American shores.
Still, candidates’ handling of the issue is judged by many in the context of how they communicate with the Latino voters more broadly.
That is the case when it comes to the DREAM Act, which is supported by 90 percent of Florida Latino voters.
Asked if he would veto the proposed legislation, Gingrich said that he would not, and would instead work to pass a scaled-down version of it that would provide the undocumented children of immigrants with a pathway to citizenship only if they serve in the military.
Romney has previously said he would veto the bill outright, a position that would be unpopular with many Florida Latinos, but he tried to soften that statement during the debate, saying his position is actually the same as Gingrich’s.
Another thorny topic for the Republican candidates was a question over Romney and Gingrich’s belief that English should be the official language of the United States government. Both candidates were asked how they could support that position while they use Spanish-language campaign literature to court Latino voters.
Gingrich and Romney carefully defended their positions, saying they would help foster a more prosperous population.
“There are over 200 languages spoken in Chicago. Now, how do you unify the country? What is the common bond that enables people to be both citizens and to rise commercially and have a better life and a greater opportunity? it’s essential to have a central language to learn and communicate in,” said Gingrich, according to TPM.
Romney agreed with Gingrich, saying that English was essential for immigrants to learn in order to obtain jobs. He used the example of immigrant children in Massachusetts who were educated in their native tongue and “could not all speak English well.”