Mitt Romney on amnesty, circa 2006 Update: Out of context?

posted at 6:00 pm on November 28, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

Plenty of people are jumping on Newt Gingrich for his immigration comments, including Mitt Romney. It’s good to know that Mitt has been a long time, staunch advocate of strong positions on illegal immigration. What’s that you say? Mitt might have taken a different position previously? Perish the thought!

(See UPDATE below)

Let’s go to the video.

Business Week has the scoop.

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.

The comments contrast with the position Romney took last week when he challenged Gingrich’s assertion during a televised debate that the U.S. should have a “humane” immigration policy that allows some people who entered the country illegally long ago, have no criminal record, and have family, civic and religious ties to stay and get legal status. Romney called the approach “amnesty” and a magnet for illegality.

This is yet another subject where I’m having a hard time deciding whether I like Governor Mitt Romney better, or presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Though it’s anathema to most hard line conservatives, there are serious problems with trying to suddenly locate, detain and deport tens of millions of people. That’s why I’ve always personally advocated a program of going after those who hire those without proper credentials proving they are here legally and eligible to work. (Call it a “magnet” if you like.) But even that path is fraught with some risks, as the tomato farmers in Alabama will testify.

The point here goes less to the practical than to the political. Romney does best when he gives generic answers to debate questions and largely stays quiet the rest of the time, allowing the rest of the field to attack and implode each other. When he jumps in to criticize a position taken by Newt, or Perry or Cain, it usually doesn’t take reporters more than a few minutes to find some point in the past when Romney took the exact same stance. (Or at least something close to it.)

Expect the other campaigns – particularly Team Gingrich – to be making hay out of this one in the weeks to come.

UPDATE: Readers inform us that the quote above was correct, but perhaps out of context. The full text of the comment in the video is provided.

My own view is, consistent with what you saw in the Lowell Sun, 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 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 stay here for the rest of their lives merely by virtue of having come here illegally, and that, I think, is the great flaw in the final bill that came forward from the Senate.

This does add more context to it, and definitely softens the impact of the clipped video. Then again, even in context, it seems to imply that at least some of the illegals would have some form of preferential treatment, if not “head of the line” privileges. In fact, it’s rather hard to square the original portion of the statement with the emphasized additional quote which was not originally included. If Mitt is just saying that anyone here illegally should be able to go home and then “sign up for permanent residency” then he’s not saying much more than, “Let’s deport them and let them apply for citizenship through the normal channels.” But the preface of saying, “had come here illegally and are in this country” muddles the statement completely. It would be nice to find some additional statements on this issue from the same period.

UPDATE 2: And more backing up the original version. Or at least sort of.

In 2007, Romney had also talked of undocumented immigrants returning to their country of origin, but back then he didn’t appear to favor that approach for all. In the end, his comments in a key Dec. 16, 2007, interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” were jumbled and unclear.

“They should have a set period during which period they sign up for application for permanent residency or for citizenship. But there’s a set period whereupon they should return home. And if they’ve been approved for citizenship or for a permanent residency, well, that would be a different matter. But for the great majority, they’ll be going home,” Romney told Tim Russert in that interview.

The Romney campaign did not answer questions about whether those comments constituted the view that some, but not all, undocumented immigrants should have to leave the country. The phrase “great majority” implies it is what he meant.

So in the past, Romney indicated an openness to creating a process by which undocumented immigrants might achieve permanent status in the U.S. But his position has hardened: He now believes the government should do nothing directly for those who are in the country without documentation and want to stay, regardless of whether they are productive members of society or are receiving government benefits or are involved in criminal enterprises.

He wants to direct immigrants’ behavior through “incentives.”

I leave it to the reader to decide for themselves. These answers are, as the last update indicates, “muddled” at best, but it’s not as clear cut as the original piece might suggest.

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If Mitt and Newt cancel each other out you know who this helps……

Dr Evil on November 28, 2011 at 6:04 PM

You can’t hold Mitt to the same standards and litmus tests we with other candidates.

Ignore what Mitt says. It’s always irrelevant. It’s like when Obama lies, and expects us all to agree.

Watch how he used his power when he had it.

portlandon on November 28, 2011 at 6:05 PM

Well Doc I have to guess Perry

DanMan on November 28, 2011 at 6:07 PM

When he jumps in to criticize a position taken by Newt, or Perry or Cain, it usually doesn’t take reporters more than a few minutes to find some point in the past when Romney took the exact same stance. (Or at least something close to it.)

So you’re saying this is… inevitable?

rrpjr on November 28, 2011 at 6:07 PM

“Could somebody please just tell me what you want to hear.”

-Mittens

mankai on November 28, 2011 at 6:09 PM

If Mitt and Newt cancel each other out you know who this helps……

Dr Evil on November 28, 2011 at 6:04 PM

Can you give me a clue? ‘Cause I’m thinking, a second look at Gary and Buddy?

Fallon on November 28, 2011 at 6:13 PM

Michelle or Rick.

listens2glenn on November 28, 2011 at 6:16 PM

“… some being returned, and some beginning the process of applying for citizenship and establishing legal status …”

They could be granted legal status without citizenship.

J_Crater on November 28, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Yawn…

therightwinger on November 28, 2011 at 6:27 PM

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.

How is his position “nearly identical” to what Newt said? Newt outline a rather arbitrary deal for people who have been here for the magic number of 25 years and wants local boards set up to decide the fate of these illegals.

Allow me to present the full transcript of the Russert interview in its entirety. The immigration discussion begins here:

RUSSERT: Immigration, an issue that is very important in this country and to the Republican primary voters. The Boston Globe interviewed you two years ago, and there’s a tape of that conversation where you expressed support for the policies of George Bush and John McCain on immigration. Let’s watch and listen.

Buy Danish on November 28, 2011 at 6:31 PM

Why should it matter Obama is allowed to EVOLVE on gay marriage. It isn’t fair

tomas on November 28, 2011 at 6:34 PM

Wait, what? Mittens flip flopped on an issue? The devil you say!

angryed on November 28, 2011 at 6:35 PM

If Mitt and Newt cancel each other out you know who this helps……

Dr Evil on November 28, 2011 at 6:04 PM

Archibald Hunstman?

angryed on November 28, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Can you give me a clue? ‘Cause I’m thinking, a second look at Gary and Buddy?

Fallon on November 28, 2011 at 6:13 PM

“Buddy” supports the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

amerpundit on November 28, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Can you give me a clue? ‘Cause I’m thinking, a second look at Gary and Buddy?

Fallon on November 28, 2011 at 6:13 PM

Gary Coleman and Buddy Ebsen?

Dr Evil on November 28, 2011 at 6:38 PM

Speaking of Newt – Look at what the “unbiased” and “objective” National media are doing to support their favorite Socialist:

WaPo’s Daily Fix Writer Tweets Out Request for Dirt on Gingrich

http://bigjournalism.com/jjmnolte/2011/11/28/wapos-daily-fix-writer-tweets-out-request-for-dirt-on-gingrich/

Chip on November 28, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Speaking of Newt – Look at what the “unbiased” and “objective” National media are doing to support their favorite Socialist:

WaPo’s Daily Fix Writer Tweets Out Request for Dirt on Gingrich

http://bigjournalism.com/jjmnolte/2011/11/28/wapos-daily-fix-writer-tweets-out-request-for-dirt-on-gingrich/

Chip on November 28, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Another call for crowd sourcing, the liberal media are so freakin lazy. I don’t know why they don’t just make up sh1t. That’s what they end up doing anyway.

Dr Evil on November 28, 2011 at 6:42 PM

Ignore what Mitt says. It’s always irrelevant. It’s like when Obama lies, and expects us all to agree.

Watch how he used his power when he had it.

portlandon on November 28, 2011 at 6:05 PM

Just like obummer….all of his positions have an expiration date.

Tim_CA on November 28, 2011 at 6:46 PM

Another call for crowd sourcing, the liberal media are so freakin lazy. I don’t know why they don’t just make up sh1t. That’s what they end up doing anyway.

Dr Evil on November 28, 2011 at 6:42 PM

Check out the article – the author pretty guesses that’s what they will do.

My guess is that by October of next year, Aaron Blake will be tweeting:

Hey Tweeps, anyone willing to go off the record on background with lies that will damage the GOP nominee?

Hey Tweeps, did any of you ever see the GOP nominee working with an unrepetant domestic terrorist or spending time in a racist church? Remember, I mean the GOP nominee.

Remember, their national agenda of socialism is on the line – they’re going to put out all the stops, no matter who they are.

Chip on November 28, 2011 at 6:47 PM

You are a week late and still you arrive at moronic

The first part of the statement.

My own view is, consistent with what you saw in the Lowell Sun, 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 sign up for permanent residency or citizenship

….does not cancel out the second part of the statement

but they should not be given a special pathway, a special guarantee that all of them get to stay here for the rest of their lives merely by virtue of having come here illegally

In fact the word “special” before guarantee and pathway make the first part even more correct.

LeeSeneca on November 28, 2011 at 6:49 PM

Gary Coleman and Buddy Ebsen?

Dr Evil on November 28, 2011 at 6:38 PM

I didn’t know we were working from the dead pool. You’ve just opened up a lot more possibilities…

Fallon on November 28, 2011 at 6:51 PM

“Buddy” supports the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

amerpundit on November 28, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Oh, drat. This is the last time I’ll use my alligator purse this season. Damnation!*

*Warning – Link to moneyb0mb for Roemer by…

Wait for it…

Kos.

*blech!*

Fallon on November 28, 2011 at 6:56 PM

Then again, even in context, it seems to imply that at least some of the illegals would have some form of preferential treatment

Sorry, but I disagree. I’m not a fan of Romney and he is inconsistent on the issue but in this particular instance the context does make a difference. He’s saying that illegal aliens can still apply through the legal immigration process but that they don’t get any preferential treatment just because they’ve already come here illegally.

FloatingRock on November 28, 2011 at 6:58 PM

What a lame attempt at a smear.

therightwinger on November 28, 2011 at 7:11 PM

So, in the end, Romney’s stance on amnesty is not that he is for amnesty, but that he has a nuanced view on illegal immigration that does not lend itself to soundbites.

Is the GOP a party where every question ever asked of anyone can only be a yes/no question? If you’re looking to prove the Democrats’ constant bleating that the GOP are a party for simpletons and morons, you guys are really not making it hard for them.

Anyways, Gingrich’s whole “plan” or whatever you want to call it, is, as Romney pointed out, flawed. Where do you draw the arbitrary line that Gingrich wants to draw, after which you will be granted amnesty? 25 years? 20 years? 10 years? Any policy that hinges upon an arbitrarily defined time limit is bad policy, period. Also, it acts as a magnet, because you’re telling Mexicans “evade the INS for X years, and you’re home free!”

What Romney seems to be explaining in these earlier conversations, is a plan to actually start documenting and finding all the illegals that are in the United States, and then taking action on them. Either they are forced to start the process of applying for citizenship – just like all other foreign nationals have to – or they get sent home.

That’s not amnesty. Amnesty is giving them citizenship simply by virtue of being in the country. Making someone apply for citizenship is not amnesty. What Romney was advocating was not amnesty.

Seixon on November 28, 2011 at 7:29 PM

I didn’t know we were working from the dead pool. You’ve just opened up a lot more possibilities…

Fallon on November 28, 2011 at 6:51 PM

And I am betting they both could poll higher than a live Les Huntsman ;)

Dr Evil on November 28, 2011 at 7:41 PM

Thanks for the updates – seeing this one video out of context is beyond tiresome. But I’m still looking for anything which indicates that Romney’s position then (or now) is/was “identical” to Newt’s plan (as articulated in the debate) where 25 years residency/local board’s consensus was determinative. Can both be called a form of amnesty in the broadest sense? Yes. But “identical”? Not at all (and for Business Week to make a claim like that is a big effing deal).

Buy Danish on November 28, 2011 at 10:16 PM

When you read these news clips you realize Romney was actually fighting hard to move the discourse over to the right? This seems lost on people when talking about Romney – continually and about many issues. He is engaging liberal reporters about a liberal senate bill and challenging them to move to the right and telling them what is wrong with that policy. Why people prefer someone who starts out on the right but is unwilling to ever get their hands dirty by actually challenging the politically correct assumptions, I don’t understand. That is what Bush was, 8 years of conservatism with absolutely no fight in it.

Resolute on November 28, 2011 at 10:31 PM

So, in the end, Romney’s stance on amnesty is not that he is for amnesty, but that he has a nuanced view on illegal immigration that does not lend itself to soundbites.

Is the GOP a party where every question ever asked of anyone can only be a yes/no question? If you’re looking to prove the Democrats’ constant bleating that the GOP are a party for simpletons and morons, you guys are really not making it hard for them.

Seixon on November 28, 2011 at 7:29 PM

Are you joking? Do you not recall Newt giving a “nuanced” answer on this issue, and then Mitt going ballistic on him for supporting “amnesty”????? To the extent that the GOP is “a party where every question ever asked can only be a yes/no question”, it is because of demagoguery like we’re seeing from Romney’s camp. This isn’t about Romney giving a nuanced position on immigration; its about Romney being a hypocrite for attacking others for supporting “amnesty” when they give nuanced answers.

Lawdawg86 on November 28, 2011 at 10:49 PM

comments in a key Dec. 16, 2007, interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” were jumbled and unclear

Just like on the night of the debate. All of these Romney supporters who are busting on Newt for having the guts to state his policy (however misguided it may be) have absolutely no idea what their guy thinks, because Mitt’s advisors haven’t told him to say yet.

Slick Willy Part 2: Slick Willard

29Victor on November 28, 2011 at 10:58 PM

So, in the end, Romney’s stance on amnesty is not that he is for amnesty, but that he has a nuanced view on illegal immigration that does not lend itself to soundbites.

Seixon on November 28, 2011 at 7:29 PM

Mittens has had now, what, a week or more to clarify his position on immigration. To put up a page on his site, or give a speech, or release a paper. But he’s done none of it, he’s just attacked Newt for basically agreeing with what he’s said before, sat back and let you project your ideas a out immigration policy on to him.

29Victor on November 28, 2011 at 11:02 PM

Whoring for votes (Romney) is more virtuous than whoring for money (Gingrich).

aloysiusmiller on November 28, 2011 at 11:10 PM

Jazz,
Got to give you props for at least trying to set the actual record straight. Many times Allah and Ed will post something and even though the full context is out there they’ll let it ride for comment-sake. So thank you for posting what Romney has said in full.

He has been consistent on this issue. Those that do not like Romney will take out what they think they hear to fit their agenda.

Romney has said in 2006/7/8 that, yes, there are illegals that are here and that there will be no special pathway for them and, yes, allow them to sign up for citizenship BUT they will still have to go home and begin that process.

As Buy Danish and others have correctly pointed out is that Gingrich is saying all those that are here over 25 years (why that number by the way? hmmmm…1986 what happened then?) will go before a local board and allow them to stay based on what? I mean this IS amnesty even though Gingrich does not want to use that word. This process will also create SUPER-sanctuary cities to those boards that will basically give blanket amnesty to illegals i.e. San Francisco, Seattle, LA, Miami, NYC, Chicago…thus never solving the illegal immigration problem.

Romney is and has always said that you 11-20 million people will be offered citizenship but you need to do it properly and you are not going to butt in line with those already in line doing it the right way.

g2825m on November 29, 2011 at 4:24 AM

This process will also create SUPER-sanctuary cities to those boards that will basically give blanket amnesty to illegals i.e. San Francisco, Seattle, LA, Miami, NYC, Chicago…thus never solving the illegal immigration problem.
g2825m on November 29, 2011 at 4:24 AM

That could happen and/or it presents a great opportunity for graft. Illegal gives generous gift to board members who vote to deem him/her worthy. And one of the examples cited by Gingrich as making one worthy was being a member of a church (is it fair to call this picking winners and losers?). This manages to pander to voters but would probably not stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

All I want is a secure border and a guest worker policy combined with scrutiny on employers to ensure compliance with the law. People will have little if any incentive to come illegally and many will leave through attrition.

Buy Danish on November 29, 2011 at 9:05 AM