(Photo: Reuters/Joe Skipper)
Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has been accused recently of changing his position on immigration. Closer inspection reveals, however, that Romney has held a consistent position.
When asked on Fox News' “Special Report” Tuesday, if he has changed his position on immigration, Romney replied, “No, my view is that those people who are here illegally today should have the opportunity to register, to have their status identified, and those individuals should get in line with everyone else that is in line legally.
“They should not be placed ahead of the line. Instead, they should be placed at the back of the line, and they should not be allowed to stay in this country and be given permanent residency or citizenship merely because you've come here illegally.”
The former Massachusetts governor recently criticized rival Newt Gingrich's stand on immigration, arguing that Gingrich supports amnesty for immigrants who have been living in the country without proper documentation.
Former Speaker of the House Gingrich said he supported a type of legal status for some illegal immigrants. “If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids, two grandkids, you've been paying taxes, obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out,” Gingrich said at a Nov. 22 debate.
Romney explained his position in the same debate, saying, “The principle is we're not going to have an amnesty system that says the people who come here illegally get to stay for the rest of their life in this country legally.”
Since that debate, many news organizations have reported that Romney used to be for amnesty for illegal immigrants, and is now opposed. The Gingrich campaign noted on its twitter feed that, in a 2007 interview on NBC's “Meet the Press,” Romney said, “Those people who've come here illegally and are in this country, the 12 million or so who are here illegally, should be able to sign up for permanent residency or citizenship.”
“Meet the Press” also played that clip in its Nov. 27, 2011 episode. “This is why we keep the tape,” host David Gregory joked.
The Romney campaign contacted “Meet the Press” this week to complain that the clip from Romney's 2007 interview was taken out of context. In response, “Meet the Press” put the video and transcript of the entire video on its website.
Inspection of Romney's full remarks in the 2007 “Meet the Press” interview reveals that the Romney campaign is correct. Romney's position on immigration has not changed.
“Meet the Press” admitted Monday it made a mistake by not airing the full context of Romney's remarks on immigration, saying, “Yesterday we aired a clip from an hour-long interview that candidate Mitt Romney did in 2007 on 'Meet the Press,' during his first run for the Republican nomination, which has been referenced in other media outlets and used by his political opponents. Upon reflection, we should have aired his complete answer or noted that he went on to say that people here illegally 'should not be given a special pathway' so that viewers could have a better understanding of his position on this complex issue.”
In that 2007 “Meet the Press” interview, Romney also said, “My own view is consistent ... that those people who had come here illegally and are in this country – the 12 million or so that are here illegally – should be able to stay sign up for permanent residency or citizenship, but they should not be given a special pathway, a special guarantee that all of them get to say here for the rest of their lives merely by virtue of having come here illegally.”
That statement is consistent with what Romney has said in recent debates and interviews on the topic.
Romney's older and more recent statements on immigration show he clearly wants illegal immigrants to not be denied access to citizenship and wants them to apply for citizenship, if they wish to remain in the country. But, he also thinks they should not be given a privileged status in the application process.
Immigration is an issue that divides the Republican Party. Some in the party are sharply opposed to efforts that would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Others want more immigration and a simplified path to citizenship for immigrants who are already here illegally. Given this split, Romney, understandably, continues to parse his words carefully on this topic.