Mitt Romney's Two Faces on Immigration

Republicans exuded so much warmth and sunshine toward immigrants during their three-day convention gala last week that no one would ever guess that only recently their presidential contenders were competing over who’d make the tougher Deporter-in-Chief. Herman Cain called for a 20-foot electrified border fence with barbed wire that killed on contact. Michele Bachman pledged to send Immigration and Customs agents to hunt illegals in the interior and chase them out.

But Romney finally triumphed over the final pack with his plan to make the life of illegals so miserable that they would “self deport.” A defeated Newt Gingrich declared Romney the winner: “He is the most anti-immigrant candidate of us all,” Newt announced.

But there was Mitt’s son, Craig, at the convention choking up about the immigrant roots of his family. "It's easy to forget that the story of my father's success begins with the story of two immigrants - my grandfathers - who came to this country [one from Mexico] with little more than hope in the opportunity of America," he said.

He was hardly the only one. As ABC recounts, there was:

  • South Dakota Sen. John Thune who described how his Norwegian grandfather immigrated through Ellis Island, changing his name along the way.
  • Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum who explained how his father immigrated "from the mountains of northern Italy, on a ship named Providence."
  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told of his great grandfather who arrived penniless to live the "American Dream," and also cited struggles and triumphs of friends -- a Cambodian family in Kentucky and Vietnamese brothers who arrived on a "leaky boat."
  • Utah House candidate Mia Love, who in her two minutes on the podium, managed to mention her parents immigrating from Haiti "with $10 in their pocket."
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley who proclaimed that she is the "proud daughter of Indian immigrants."
  • And Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz told a "love story of freedom" about his Irish-Italian working-class mom and his Cuban refugee dad.

And then Romney himself, in his etch-a-sketch moment, crooned: “We are a nation of immigrants. We are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life, the driven ones, the ones who woke up at night hearing that voice telling them that life in that place called America could be better.”

But conservative hawks repeatedly claim that to know where Palestinians really stand on making peace with Israel, one should look not at what their leaders proclaim in sanitized international forums but at their formal charters. By the same token, to know where the Republican Party really stands on immigration, one should look not at the bathetic personal tales it tells the world during prime time TV -- but at the platform the party faithful hammered out in the backrooms away from the convention klieg lights.

And this platform certainly pays lip service to handing more H1-B visas (temporary work permits, not green cards or citizenship, mind you) to high-skilled immigrants – but evidently only to those who speak English! And not to simply make it easier for businesses to grow, but to “reclaim this country’s traditional position of dominance in international trade.”

But the bulk of the party’s immigration statement is devoted to condemning the lack of respect illegal immigrants have for the rule of law. It declares “securing the rule of law both at our borders and port of entry” as “our highest priority.” And to fulfill that priority, it regurgitates the usual bromides about making E-Verify mandatory for hiring (so much for deregulating the workplace) and completing a “double-layered fence” on the southern border (so much for cutting spending on wasteful government programs).

Even more distressingly, however, it goes out of its way to portray illegals as criminals who make communities unsafe – never mind that border-towns such as El Paso with a large undocumented population have an exceedingly low crime rate.

But the heart of the statement is devoted to operationalizing Mitt Romney’s plan to get immigrants to “self deport” by opposing:

  • “any form of amnesty;”
  • denying “federal grants” to states that offer “instate tuition” to illegal aliens;
  • giving Uncle Sam the tools to go after “sanctuary cities” that “endanger their own citizens;” aiding states like Alabama that want to cut even basic municipal services like water to undocumented households…

…and so on.

Party platforms are of course written to be ignored. They are more useful as liners for kitty litter boxes than as guidance for future presidents. But the problem for Romney, should he become president, is that this party platform basically enunciates the immigration vision he himself articulated during the primary debates. I actually don’t believe that he is cruel enough to believe this vision. He said what he thought he needed to say to appease the rowdy restrictionists in his party and win the nomination. But the problem is that having said that – and having his words codified in the platform – he has basically forfeited his ability to lead his party toward a more enlightened position and possibly paved the way for some pretty bad stuff on this issue, all the happy talk at the convention notwithstanding.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Both parties seem to be of two minds on immigration: Conservatives lament the cultural intrusion while businesses enjoy the lower labor costs. Unions dislike the competition while progressives want to feel good about themselves.

    I, on the other hand, think turnabout is fair play. Americans should sneak into Mexico to mow their lawns. See how they like it.

  • ||

    FoE is white on the right side. All his people are white on the right side.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You useless pieces of bland flesh.

  • ||

    You're dead! You half-white!

  • ||

    Fascinating. Two irrevocably hostile humanoids.

  • ||

    You monotone humans are all alike. First you condemn and then attack!

  • Brandybuck||

    I would wear my Frank Gorshin suit in solidarity with the oppressed left/white minority, except that it would embarrassingly reveal my unit to be of only average size.

  • ||

    The Riddler being in that episode just makes it that much more awesome. Just think if they had been able to get Burt Ward, Adam West, or Cesar Romero as well.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's interesting that you would choose to list Burt Ward first.

  • ||

    Interesting...or the gayest monster since gay came to Gaytown?

  • Brutus||

    I'd opt for Victor Buono or Vincent Price.

  • ||

    King Tut being in an episode of Star Trek would have been pretty awesome. Vincent Price, as great as he was, wouldn't really have fit, though, I don't think.

  • Brutus||

    An Egghead planet would have been sweet.

  • ||

    I would wear my Frank Gorshin suit in solidarity with the oppressed left/white minority

    Surely you mean "right/black" minority...

    Racist!

  • Brandybuck||

    In the meantime the Democratic administration is deporting undocumented workers at an unprecedented race. If you look at deeds and not words, Republicans are marginally more immigrant friendly than Democrats.

  • Ice Nine||

    "Republicans exuded so much warmth and sunshine toward immigrants legal immigrants during their three-day convention gala last week that no one would ever guess that only recently their presidential contenders were competing over who’d make the tougher Deporter-in-Chief of illegal immigrants."

    FIFY

    (And, sorry about putting your sentence in its true nonsensical form.)

  • ||

    That's actually a great rewrite. It magnifies the morally obnoxious distinction being made based solely on arbitrary conditions of birth.

    Think about how this would be fixed for a convention in the 1880's:

    "Republicans exuded so much warmth and sunshine toward immigrants white immigrants during their three-day convention gala last week that no one would ever guess that only recently their presidential contenders were competing over who’d make the tougher Deporter-in-Chief of Chinese immigrants."

    Timeless!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • BakedPenguin||

    Dude, the Chinaman is not the issue.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Why not? He's wearing a pimp hat.

  • Brutus||

    But we don't want the Irish!!

  • Joe R.||

    Good point. Make them legal, problem solved!

  • Joe R.||

    How many of those parents and grandparents mentioned in the article would have been considered legal immigrants under modern laws?

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'll just leave this here.

  • Archduke PantsFan||

    Apu: Today, I am no longer an Indian living in America. I am an Indian-American.
    Lisa: You know, in a way, all Americans are immigrants. Except, of course Native Americans.
    Homer: Yeah, Native Americans like us.
    Lisa: No, I mean American Indians.
    Apu: Like me.

  • ||

    he has basically forfeited his ability to lead his party toward a more enlightened position and possibly paved the way for some pretty bad stuff on this issue, all the happy talk at the convention notwithstanding.

    Not really. It's Romney, and prior words don't constrain him in pursuing political expediency.

    That being said, neither party, having briefly had control of both the White House and Congress, did anything to liberalize immigration policy.

  • Brutus||

    Higher fences, much wider gates.

    Face it, if you can't control your own border, you're not a country.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Yes, but if you have those much wider gates, you don't need those higher fences as you are eliminating a lot of the incentive for human smuggling, the "immigration black market" if you will. Not that people won't try, but those that will would be the real baddies.

  • Brutus||

    The "higher fences" is obviously a metaphor for strict enforcement of the immigration laws we do have, but I'm all in favor of liberalizing those laws to make getting work, residency and citizenship easier. Our immigration and natualization is a disgrace as it is.

  • Joe R.||

    The "higher fences" is obviously a metaphor for strict enforcement of the immigration laws we do have, but I'm all in favor of liberalizing those laws to make getting work, residency and citizenship easier.

    "Cannabis should be legal, but until then, let 'em rot in jail!"

  • Xenocles||

    So we liberalize our immigration policy and dramatically pare down the black market? Sounds good to me.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Sounds like a winner.

  • Homple||

    I'm curious what the USA has against people who travel on airplanes. I've done much international travel over the years and noticed that foreign air travelers have more hoops to jump through each year. Lately they have to have their eyeballs scanned or something. They must show documents, declare where they will stay and when they are leaving and what they intend to do while they're here.

    In contrast, you wade across the Rio Grande and you're golden, at least as far as Libertarians and Democrats are concerned. What's up, anyway?

  • Calidissident||

    Cause dumb laws about people traveling on airplanes justify dumb laws about people coming here by land or water

  • Hoppy Harrington||

    People who travel on airplanes take the "right people's" jerbs.

  • Homple||

    I think you're right.

  • Joe R.||

    I tried to get a tourist visa for my Chinese girlfriend a few years back. It's nearly impossible, unless you have kids, land, or a million dollars.

    By contrast, flying into Hong Kong apparently just requires you to show your passport.

  • ||

    Repugnicans are like Rush Limbaugh who does his show with half his brain tied behind his back.
    Repugnicans try to win elections with more than half the voters tied behind their backs: women, immigrants, minorities, young people... Which group did I leave out?
    Anyway, good luck! Not.

  • Brutus||

    Math, how does it work?

  • Homple||

    To start,you mention "women". Get back to us if you this means anything more than "whoop for abortion".

  • ||

    "Both parties seem to be of two minds on immigration: Conservatives lament the cultural intrusion while businesses enjoy the lower labor costs"

    i've seen next to none conservative criticism/lamentation of immigration

    i've seen plenty of conservative criticism of ILLEGAL immigration, and the fact that in many respects we do little about it/to prevent it and/or incentivize it by providing benefits to some illegal immigrants in some states, etc.

  • Cytotoxic||

    i've seen next to none conservative criticism/lamentation of immigrationdrugs

    i've seen plenty of conservative criticism of ILLEGAL immigrationdrugs, and the fact that in many respects we do little about it/to prevent it and/or incentivize it by providing benefits to some illegal immigrants in some states, etc.not enough enforcement of asinine laws.

  • ||

    drug usage is a purely personal decision. there are few things more private, intimate, and clearly none of the govt's business, than the contents of my bloodstream

    borders, national sovereignty and the enforcement of same is a completely different matter

    many cultures throughout history have celebrated drug use, and drug use is as natural as, to paraphrase john lennon , milk. actually more so- humans drinking cows milk is actually more unnatural than humans using drugs

    opiods for example. our body PRODUCES endorphins, a word that means ENDogenous MORPHINe.

    otoh, nations throughout history have recognized that borders matter, and that one doesn't get to say "i'm a (athenian, spartan, frenchman, etc.) merely by crossing a border (illegally) and planting your foot on the land.

    and before i get some kind of libertarian purity rubbish, i will just stay i stand with libertarians like ron paul vis a vis immigration

    http://www.issues2000.org/tx/R.....ration.htm

  • ||

    ...i will just stay i stand with libertarians like ron paul vis a vis immigration

    Immigrants who can't be sent back due to the magnitude of the problem should not be given citizenship--no amnesty should be granted. Maybe a "green card" with an asterisk could be issued. This in-between status, keeping illegal immigrants in limbo, will be said that it will create a class of 2nd-class citizens. Yet it could be argued that it may well allow some immigrants who come here illegally a beneficial status without automatic citizenship--a much better option than deportation.

    Very agreeable sentiment. Very much like Milton Friedman's position. This Ron Paul fellow sounds like he might go places!

  • ||

    otoh, nations throughout history have recognized that borders matter, and that one doesn't get to say "i'm a (athenian, spartan, frenchman, etc.) merely by crossing a border (illegally) and planting your foot on the land.

    Actually, while nations throughout history wouldn't necessarily call you a Frenchman, etc., restricting the crossing of borders is a peculiarly 20th century development -- mostly the result of newly politically powerful labor unions being able to pass protectionist legislation.

  • ||

    yes, but consider that crossing a border now means you are entitled to "stuff" that wasn't usually true in societies of old. at a bare minimum, social safety net stuff, ER treatment, police and fire service etc.

  • ||

    But consider too that the granting of entitlements to "stuff" is tenable only because the borders are sealed.

  • Copernicus||

    What a fucking horrible article. Has Reason become liberal Kool-Aid drinkers?

    Is not one of the few appropriate duties of the Federal Government to secure the borders?

    True or False: The ideal scenario is one where every immigrant is a legal immigrant. If you answered True, then let's move in that direction. If you answered False, Fuck you.

    And for those who think that millions of illegal aliens can't be identified and deported, BULLSHIT!!!!! Give me that job and and 100G salary and I'll get it done yesterday. In the meantime, when did it become asinine to try to stop the inbound flow?

  • Copernicus||

    "inbound flow" = "inbound ILLEGAL flow"

  • ||

    True or False: The ideal scenario is one where every immigrant is a legal immigrant.

    True. The US should legalize virtually all immigration.

  • Joe R.||

    True or False: The ideal scenario is one where every immigrant is a legal immigrant.

    Given that this is a purely bureaucratic distinction, why can't we just legalize them all? I'm sure you just want to deport murderers and rapists, though.

    And for those who think that millions of illegal aliens can't be identified and deported

    Fuck, there are millions of foreign murders and rapists here?

  • Gadianton||

    Shilling for La Raza again, reason? If you don't recognize the difference between "anti-immigration" and "anti-illegal immigration," then what good are you? If we are a nation of laws, then we should act like it. If you don't like the law, work to get it changed. Ignoring the laws you don't like leads to what we have now: contempt for all law. If you want an open-borders immigration policy, get the people elected who hold the same view you do, and get the law changed.

    Deliberately misrepresenting peoples' positions on an issue is libelous, and sounds like malice aforethought to me.

  • ||

    Ignoring the laws you don't like leads to what we have now: contempt for all law.

    Just curious: What specific laws do you think are treated with contempt that should not be treated with contempt?

  • Gadianton||

    Let's go with immigration law. Many people here sneer contemptuously at the idea that borders between nations mean something. Our government ignores its own laws on the subject, and the populace takes its lead from the government.

  • ||

    I was looking for an example that wasn't simply circular reasoning.

    I think immigration law -- like drug law, vice law, etc. -- is bad law. But I don't think contempt for those examples of bad law leads to contempt of all law.

    Apparently you think so don't either.

  • Joe R.||

    I'm all in favor of liberalizing our drug laws. But until then, throw pot users in jail!

  • Gadianton||

    Actually, yes. The obverse of the coin of agency is responsibility. People who smoke pot do so knowing they are in violation of the law, and they know that the sentences for illegal drug use are stupidly draconian. Part of making choices is determining if the pleasure derived from the choice is worth the consequences of the action.

    Short version: If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

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