Mitt Romney Reminds Us That Trump Isn't as Extreme on Immigration as the 2012 GOP

Even our restrictionist president has yet to go full Romney.


Still a handsome fella, tho. ||| Jim Urquhart/REUTERS/Newscom
Jim Urquhart/REUTERS/Newscom

As Elizabeth Nolan Brown pointed out this morning, U.S. Senate candidate for Utah and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told an audience in Provo Monday that he has been "more of a hawk on immigration than even the president." This is true and worth reflecting on, particularly for anti-illegal-immigration hardliners.

In Q&A and a follow-up clarification, Romney indicated that his policy approach has changed somewhat toward U.S. residents who were brought here illegally as children, around 800,000 of which were entered into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program launched by the Obama administration in 2012. "My view [in 2012] was these DACA kids shouldn't all be allowed to stay in the country legally," Romney said. "Now, I will accept the president's view on this [in 2018], but for me, I draw the line and say, those who've come illegally should not be given a special path to citizenship." Later, the campaign shared the candidate's certification document, which states, "Specifically, I believe the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individuals should be given legal status."

It's worth pointing out that candidate Donald Trump was talking about not just deporting DACA kids, but deporting U.S.-citizen children of adult legal immigrants, so the president's current position, whatever it exactly is, represents considerable softening compared to his campaign rhetoric. But so does Mitt Romney's.

The 2012 Republican Party Platform makes it plain: "[W]e oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. Granting amnesty only rewards and encourages more law breaking." Giving DACA kids relief from deportation is an amnesty, by any reasonable definition of the word. So why did Trump and Romney change their minds?

Public opinion could play a role—support for continuing DACA and/or not deporting illegal-immigrant children consistently polls at 66 percent or higher, depending on the wording. But there's another lesson lurking in plain sight: Conservative immigration rhetoric, long before Donald Trump, has been writing checks that simply cannot be cashed in the real world.

An underappreciated Welch-tenure cover. ||| Reason

As George Will pointed out in 2013, after a Romney loss that many people at the time (including Donald Trump) blamed on the candidate's "maniacal" (in Trump's words) immigration platform, deporting every illegal immigrant from the United States "would require a line of buses bumper-to-bumper extending from San Diego to Alaska. Not going to happen. And as soon as people come to terms with that, then we get on to settling it." Then-candidate Gary Johnson made a similar point in 2016: "Rounding up more than 11 million people—a population larger than all but the 7 largest states in the union—is a ludicrous notion to begin with. Everyone knows it, including Donald Trump. It was a lie cloaked in a promise."

So President Trump will eventually produce some form of "amnesty" that he explicitly ran against, as a President Romney would have had to despite running not one but two campaigns tarring all his opponents with the A-word. And these are hardly the only undeliverables in conservative immigration rhetoric.

Romney in 2012 wanted to deny federal funding not only to sanctuary cities (which the Trump administration is discovering runs up against the U.S. Constitution) but also to "universities that provide instate tuition rates to illegal aliens," something I don't think Trump has even broached (though it, too, would likely be quashed in court). Romney also wanted to complete the physical barrier on the southern border, though only in "double-layered fencing," and paid for by the Treasury, not a theoretical Mexico.

Immigration restrictionists do not want to hear that their policy goals are unattainable; they would rather complain that the politician who campaigned on them then failed to deliver was just another sellout to Big Open Borders. (For those with a refined taste in crocodile tears, I recommend reading about the recent spurned-lover conversation about Trump's immigration shortfalls with former champions Ann Coulter and Mickey Kaus.)

But the truth is, we cannot "seal our borders," we cannot magically wave away birthright citizenship, we cannot track foreign visitors like FedEx packages, nor do most of the things Republican politicians now routinely promise on the issue. Until conservatives confront the logistical and constitutional obstacles to their enforcement fantasies, we will be at a policy impasse.

The same goes for Democrats' mirror-image fantasia on the issue, which begins with their very recent conversion to the gauzy idea that you can protect at least five million illegal immigrants from deportation without incentivizing new illegal immigrants to come right behind them. By preemptively ruling out most any status-pathways between deportability and citizenship, they have not only helped make what should be a more fluid flow of workers go back and forth across the borders, but have encouraged Republicans to look upon immigration policy as a zero-sum contest for votes.

The immigration paths of the two major parties have only recently diverged, and much of what they still do agree on (like the E-Verify system) is intrusive and wrong. If there is to be any hope for a post-post-truth policy discussion about illegal immigrations, it should properly begin by subjecting the dilemma to a prohibition analysis, rather than screwing the bolts ever tighter on Fortress America. Until that day, let's subject both Team Red and Team Blue to some audio-visual mockery:

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  1. “[W]e oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. Granting amnesty only rewards and encourages more law breaking.”

    This statement actually makes a valid point that the open border crowd refuses to address. Aren’t immigrants from Mexico and Central America being given preference through amnesty since it is easier for them to come to the US due to proximity (I am aware that not just Mexicans and Central American immigrants are here illegally but they make up the vast majority of people with this status)? How is this fair at all to immigrants from southeast Asia, in particular, where receiving approval to immigrate can take up to twelve years.

    Rather than just pushing for amnesty for illegal immigrants (which is pretty much all we hear from the open border crowd) maybe it would make more sense and wouldn’t inspire such ire if you focused on reforming the immigration system that places a finite number on the amount of people that are allowed to immigrate from each country?

    1. Good point. Turning a blind eye to immigration law violations does not help people fleeing from other parts of the world. French Jews are fleeing persecution in large numbers, but they probably don’t want to spend the rest of their lives taking under the table jobs in the USA and living in illegal boarding homes.

      1. Then there’s the troubled Egyptian LGBT community. With El Sissy in charge of Egypt for the foreseeable future, plenty of LGBT guys in Egypt want to move to a better country. Europe dismisses them as “economic refugees” if they cross the Mediterranean, because they think the continent is already full thanks to the Syrian refugees.

        Researchers expect an increase in acres of wilderness in Europe, because farmland is going fallow, but Europeans would rather have wildlife occupy it than build new towns for Arabs to live in. Europeans say nice things about Arabs on the international stage, but they choose to have wolf populations grow in their countries rather than let more Arabs in.

        1. When Pew does international polls on immigration and minorities every few years, most European countries are, on average, more anti-immigrant and “xenophobic” than the average American Republican.

          1. Compare the immigration attitudes of Americans to East Asians if you want to find places more anti-immigrant and “xenophobic” than Americans sometime.

            In fact, compare most of anywhere without a white majority.

            Antixenophobia is a unicultural phenomenon.

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          2. That’s because they don’t have one of their parties spewing out the lie that their country has “Always been a country of immigrants!” Paying no mind to the fact that immigration in the past we pretty well argued about to high heaven in America, and very restricted in terms of the sources of such immigrants. Getting people to accept those dirty barley white Italian Catholics was tough enough!

            But you just can’t use that lie in Germany where the majority of the population by genetics has lived for several thousand years in a row. If Europe doesn’t get their shit together and save themselves from becoming minorities in their own homelands… I am going to be very sad. Europe turning into a 3rd world shithole makes me even sadder than it happening to America, because that truly is their homeland. At least shitlibs have a legit argument in saying we conquered America and took it from its rightful owners. No such argument exists in Europe.

            If European peoples of the world literally end up with no homeland, that’s fucked. I mean look how crappy the Jews had it for 2000 years without a land to call their own. I don’t want that for white people, but it’s what the shitlibs are demanding.

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        3. I think there is plenty of room in Israel for the Arabs and Africans. If we tear down all the walls and highways Israel has erected over Palestinian land that should be enough room for at least like 100,000 Somalis and 200,000 Arabs. It is the right thing to do, the people are in need.

    2. …maybe it would make more sense and wouldn’t inspire such ire if you focused on reforming the immigration system that places a finite number on the amount of people that are allowed to immigrate from each country?

      Um… What do you think open borders actually means? It means exactly that there should be no finite number on the amount of people that are allowed to immigrate from each country.

      The delusion that the people pushing for amnesty are part of the “open border crowd” has apparently sprouted come out of nowhere. But the liberal voices you see pushing for amnesty are not at all for open borders and would change their tune rapidly if legal immigration were opened up to the middle-class masses of the world.

      1. No. It is a delusion to think those pushing Amnesty are not open border advocates. Amnesty is effectively open borders, since those pushing current amnesty are, let’s face, it pushing *serial* amnesties. Not only have we had asserted as “one-time” amnesties in the past, the argument today for DACA doesn’t change tomorrow, or in 2020, 2025, 2030 etc., does it? If it is unfair not to extend citizenship to minor illegals today, then it is unfair not to tomorrow and ad infinitum.

        Do some people who are pro “amnesty” not know they ARE effectively pushing open borders? Maybe.

        1. Yep.

          It’s not the Wall we need to build.
          It’s the Will to enforce immigration law.

          Until then, we’ll have Open Borders on the installment plan.

          1. America can multi task.

            1. Great to do both, but the Will is still the one that matters long term.

        2. Open borders means every one of the 23 million applicants for the diversity visa gets it.

          Open borders means there are no quotas, expirations, employment limitations, or spousal limitations for H-1B visas.

          Open borders means the middle-class masses of the world who are seeking to move to a place where their own initiative drives their success will come in and overwhelm the numbers of lower skilled immigrants.

          I assure you that no one whose main immigration concern is DACA wants any of that. It completely dilutes the usefulness to the liberal cause of the immigrants they currently string along with their rhetoric and promises.

    3. “This statement actually makes a valid point that the open border crowd refuses to address.”

      The whole article is an exercise in telling Americans who oppose Reason’s Open Borders dreams that it’s too damn late and no “points” matter. Argument doesn’t matter. What Americans want doesn’t matter.

      They say they’ve already changed America into Not America, and Americans who don’t like it should go fuck themselves, because they can’t do a damn thing about it.

      And maybe we won’t do anything about it.

      But saying that we *can’t* is simply an attempt to gaslight us into hopelessness and submission.

      1. Any sane immigration policy would say some people don’t get to come.

        But Reason says no. Can’t deport people. BFYTW.

        Reason opposes Americans having any say in who comes to America, joins their polity, and starts voting to point the guns of government at them.

        They’re not interested in arguing “points”. They’re interested in changing America into Not America, and they’re telling Americans that they can’t do a damn thing about it.

        1. It’s disgusting, isn’t it? Like citizens should have no say in how things run.

          1. Self government is the exception, not the rule.

            The sadomasochism of identifying with and submitting to government has more appeal than freedom to most.

  2. At least people who get all sad because they missed out on being class president get to graduate and have the option taken away so they can move on to other things.

  3. A political party’s platform does not necessarily reflect its candidate’s positions. See Gary Johnson, for one.

    1. That was harsh, but fair. If we’re holding candidates accountable to their party’s platform, Gary probably deviated the most from his own party’s platform

      1. I wonder how many people actually read the platform anyway.

        1. The twenty five or so delegates who get their kicks spending hours over philosophical pin points?

  4. NIMBY protesters in Manhattan want to prevent new people from moving into the neighborhood by stopping the construction of a residential skyscraper. It’s meaningless to complain about Trump’s wall when you fail to confront the NIMBY protesters in your own county.

    1. Yup, basically. The Progs love the idea of open border immigration as long as that rabble doesn’t live near them.

      Then it’s a blight on their community.

      Few things are more irksome than people demanding rule changes that will never actually impact them but will fuck over plenty of others.

      1. The Progs love the idea of open border immigration…

        No they don’t.

        1. Sure they do.

          They know it leads to a permanent Big Government electoral majority.

    2. It’s fucking shameful. They could band together, buy the land themselves and just leave it empty. But they want everyone else to be fucked for their view.

  5. I thought Mormons were generally more friendly towards immigrants than the average GOPer, because many of them do missions in foreign countries, where they learn that foreigners are people too.

    1. There also more friendly to Muslims and other minority religions, because they were almost exterminated by the US federal government for having weird beliefs. Mormons are not friendly to Trump, but I think, like most Americans, they probably see a difference between “immigrants” and “illegal immigrants”. That’s just a fact that people need to realize. For right or wrong, most Americans do distinguish between the two categories

      1. The deliberate and dishonest conflation of opposition to illegal immigration and opposition to legal immigration by the Democrats and their stooges in the press is directly responsible for the increase in opposition to legal immigration as well.

        In 2008, Obama and Hillary supported extending the border fence and promised border security and a reduction in illegal immigrants. 6 years later, they were accusing people of being white supremacists simply for using the term “illegal immigrant”.

        1. History (even from 2008) is a white patriarchical construct used to opress womyn and darkies.

  6. Has anyone watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix? It’s a documentary about the Rajneesh commune in Oregon in the 80s. It is absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend it to all libertarians. It is very relevant to all the immigration discussions within libertarianism.

    1. I remember those guys. They were a real problem back then. Basically came in to that small community and took over.

  7. So why did Trump and Romney change their minds?

    Because no politician is ever going to admit that any problem is an intractable problem for which they have no simple solution. If one solution doesn’t work, another one surely will. These are people who feel competent to issue declarations on controlling the weather for the whole fucking planet, do you really think controlling immigration for one single country takes more than 5 minutes’ thought for them?

  8. And neither of them has been as vehemently anti-illegal immigration as most Democrats up until about 10 years ago. Seriously, go listen to Clinton’s State of the Union Addresses, promising deportation forces and blaming illegal immigrants for taking our jobs. Hillary and Obama both supported expanding our border fence in 2008.

  9. Anybody know if Trump has even deported as many people as Obama did during the equivalent period of his term?

    1. I believe he has not, but that’s mostly due to the fact that Obama already deported so many.

      1. Actually, due to the fact that Obama called it “deporting” if somebody got turned back at the border, unlike any prior administration.

        IOW, he was just padding his numbers to conceal the decline in enforcement in the interior of the country.

        1. Indeed. He did that with employment numbers, and any other metric that would benefit him.

  10. There are literally hundreds if millions of people seeking to migrate to the US or EU. We already deny many more people than we let in. Our political sovereignty depends on us taking a hardline stance against immigration.

  11. Matt Welch reminds us that Reason cares more about beating dead horses than posting PM links.

    1. But, “extreme”!

      I mean, Reason’s position on immigration, such as I understand it has one [unless it’s just happenstance that Everyone Seems To Be On The Same Page about it?] is pretty “extreme”.

      “No amnesties” is “extreme” in that it’s near the edge of the Overton window on immigration, sure.

      “Open borders!!!” is even more extreme in that you can’t even see the Overton window from there.

      (“Extreme” does not mean “bad”, remember.

      Reason’s position on free speech is “extreme”, and one I wholly endorse.)

      1. I don’t endorse Reason’s position. Build the wall, end chain migration, prioritize legal immigration based on a meritocracy. If Trump has to allow legal residency (not citizenship) to some of the DACA people to get the congressional votes needed to pass all of it, so be it.

        That’s what is reasonable.

        1. Legal residence + Birthright citizenship = Open Borders for all the children you want to have in the US

          It only delays the political outcome of turning America into Not America *at most* a generation.

          1. I agree, we need to end birthright citizenship for the children of non citizens. That is an excellent point. Thank you for adding that.

  12. “Rounding up more than 11 million people … is a ludicrous notion to begin with.”

    You know who else ….

    1. Indeed, its actually not that ludicrous if a Democrat is doing it.

      In fact, it might be expected.

  13. I wonder how ending DACA will fly in the November elections when Democrats find some 17 year old honor student, whose parents are now dead and is living with U.S. citizen Aunt and Uncle, and try to deport her back to Honduras where she was born and lived until age 2 when her parents illegally entered the U.S.? Endless ads, endless tears, endless emotions, endless attacks on hard-hearted Republicans. And guess what, they’d be right.

    1. “Why, I’d take her in myself, but I’ve already employing *several* ‘New Americans’.”

    2. Is she hot?

    3. I’ll take her in if she’s cute and has good……..oral skills.

    4. I think too many people are too fed up at this point for their heartstrings to be tugged that way anymore.

  14. >>”[W]e oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. Granting amnesty only rewards and encourages more law breaking.” Giving DACA kids relief from deportation is an amnesty, by any reasonable definition of the word. So why did Trump and Romney change their minds?

    Except that the line you quote does not say the GOP opposes amnesty. It says it opposes amnesty for people who intentionally broke the law, which minor children brought into the US by their parents did not.

    1. They broke the law if they *remained* in the US as adults.

  15. The chief difference between Trump and the 2012 GOP, is that there’s still some chance Trump actually means it, while we know by now the GOP as an institution is lying about most of the things it runs on, especially border enforcement.

    1. True. It’s going to take a lot of work to keep primarying out the shitweasels that go along with this stuff.

  16. Nothing has done more to diminish the quality of life for the United States middle class through higher housing (land) costs, competition for jobs, low wages, greater poverty, mortgage fraud, medicare fraud, crime, disease, cost of public schools, degradation of the military, cost of college, depletion of resources, burden on the taxpayer and overall congestion than the INCREASE of and change in the nature (more poor, more criminals, e pluribus multum) of the POPULATION since 1965, driven almost entirely by late 20th century immigration (immigrants, h1b visa holders, visa overstays, refugees, etc) their families and descendants.

    1. Sticking it to the middle class is a feature, not a bug.

      That’s what the ruling class wants. To put the uppity peasants in their place. To dominate and humiliate.

  17. A nothing article because he was not elected so we do NOT know what he would actually have done vs what he said while campaigning.

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  20. ‘The 2012 Republican Party Platform makes it plain: “[W]e oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. Granting amnesty only rewards and encourages more law breaking.” Giving DACA kids relief from deportation is an amnesty, by any reasonable definition of the word. So why did Trump and Romney change their minds?’

    The Republican Party platform gets it half right. We shouldn’t reward those who break the law.

    But an actual *amnesty* for illegal aliens would only forgive them any penalties for *past* crimes.

    What everyone proposes, now including Romney and Trump, goes further than amnesty to actually rewarding DACA illegals for their parents breaking US immigration law by bringing them illegally to the US, and their own crimes, of remaining in the US illegally.

    Why did they change their minds?

    Because Republicans are in the main spineless simpletons more concerned with being called “Racist!” by the Left than with actually protecting Liberty in the US.

    Much like Reason writers.

  21. Apparently Reason’s new line is to gaslight Americans and tell them they just can’t have their country back, because reasons.

    Walls don’t work. Buses don’t work. You can’t overturn Leftist judicial authoritarianism. If you like your country, you can’t keep it.

    Reminds me of how the Alt-Right likes to claim that ethno-nationalism is inevitable.

    People claim impossibility and inevitability of their preferred outcomes because they know they can’t convince anyone else to prefer these outcomes too. They are left to gaslight and pretend that the future you want is impossible, while the future they want is inevitable.

    But in both cases, it’s simply a matter of will. Do Americans have the will to stand up to Globalists and the Alt-Right, both bent on turning America into Not America? There’s nothing inevitable about the answer to that question.

    That’s why the Star Spangled Banner ends in a question. Freedom is not inevitable. The courage to fight for it is not inevitable. America is not inevitable. It’s a choice. An act of will. Not America is always only a generation of people not willing to fight for it away.

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  23. If the cream of the crop from the rest of the world were able to skip the border and landed jobs at a brisk pace (let’s say they’re willing to work for a lower wage), who’ll be most upset? White male progressives, who dominate the tech and financial word.

    There’s a reason why democrat voters argue in favor of open borders but blow a gasket when Disney replaces American workers with H1-B Visa workers. They’re essentially the same things. But if low skill illegal workers gravitate towards farm work or manual labor that you won’t work in, who cares? Who cares if there are waitresses in Koreatown who get treated like garbage? You ain’t going there. If these people vote democrat, then that’s all that matters.

    But if millions of foreigners flooded the country through some beautiful bridge and started competing for college admission and well paying jobs that you want – uh oh that’s a problem. Look at the gun control kids, they can’t even get into the UCs. There are probably 19 year olds in Japan who could groomed for future work at a the company.

  24. There’s a reason why democrat voters argue in favor of open borders…

    Democrat voters do not argue in favor of open borders! Where does this come from???

    Some liberals’ rhetoric may, if followed to its obvious conclusion, lead to open borders. But since liberals are preternaturally incapable of thinking in principles, that should not be used as evidence that liberals are in favor of open borders.

    1. People who beginning in 1932 call illiberal communists “liberals” are the ones with cognitive, conceptual, epistemological, ethical, logical and linguistic issues.

  25. People who say you can’t control immigration are idiots and/or liars. You can never prevent 100% of illegal immigration, but we could easily get it to be small enough to where it doesn’t matter anymore. The only reason it ever got so out of control here is because we literally decided to just stop enforcing the laws for decades, then we granted amnesty to those that broke the law, which encouraged millions more to come afterwards.

    As an example, Greece, Germany, Italy, etc etc etc have all more or less said there was simple NO POSSIBLE WAY to stop the illegal refugees from pouring into their countries. It’s simply impossible to stop it they say!

    Yet, simply saying they will not allow any refugees in, and slapping up a shitty chain link fence, and then half assedly patrolling it, and deporting anybody found within their country if they did make it through, Hungary has had almost no refugees come into their country.

    The whole thing is about 30% actual enforcement, and 70% just making it clear that it will not be accepted. No country in the world has the number of illegal immigrants that the USA does, and it is entirely because the political class simply decided to not take care of business. We can reverse this whenever we want, and we don’t have to become a police state to do it.

  26. Romney… isn’t he the losing candidate who claimed that banks, and not his five wives, have feelings and rights?

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