By Maria Peña
WASHINGTON – After 18 debates among the candidates hoping to secure the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has come out with the group’s most ridiculous and impractical solution for illegal immigration: self-deportation.
The idea emerged Monday night during the first of two debates that the Republican hopefuls are scheduled to hold in Florida with an eye toward the Jan. 31 primary, and it immediately sparked an avalanche of reactions on the social networks.
Romney does not support immigration reform to regularize the status of the 11 million undocumented foreigners residing in the United States and insists that they must leave the country and then get in line abroad to request legal visas.
When asked about how the expulsion of the undocumented people could be ensured, given that he has stated that as president he would not order mass deportations, Romney answered: “The answer is self-deportation,” which provoked laughter from some in the audience.
When the immigrants cannot find jobs because they do not have legal residence documents they will return to their countries of origin and it would be then that the United States would allow them to apply for visas, he said.
What Romney was evidently referring to, without saying so, is the “war of attrition” that some Republicans in Congress and conservative groups have been advocating for a number of years, believing that when jobs dry up for them in the United States, the undocumented foreigners will leave the country voluntarily.
However, the former governor’s comments, activists say, show his ignorance about the problems afflicting the U.S. immigration system and the obstacles confronting many in trying to legally acquire a visa.
Foreign students who enter the country with visas, for example, have almost no chance of remaining here legally at the end of their studies. They would not be able to take advantage of the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow the legalization of certain undocumented students.
Romney’s immigration policy is becoming ever clearer: zero tolerance for undocumented immigrants, more sanctions for firms that hire them knowingly and support for state laws that stifle their ability to remain in the United States.
That is to say, now Romney has made it clear that if he wins the Republican nomination and then the November election, he would support a “purge” of millions of immigrant families, as demanded by the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party, Frank Sharry – the executive director of the group America’s Voice – said Tuesday.
With a policy like this, a Romney victory is the dream of anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA and Republican leaders including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been the invisible hand behind laws in Arizona and Alabama that seek to tighten the noose around undocumented migrants.
Even worse, however, during the debate both Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reiterated their opposition to the DREAM Act, which would legalize the status of a large portion of the undocumented students in this country. The only exception that both would make, they said, would be to allow illegal immigrants who enlist in the Armed Forces to be legalized.
Thus, only if they are willing to serve as cannon fodder could they aspire to acquire legal permission to remain in the country.
Sharry said that it is contradictory that the candidates, who speak so much about promoting economic opportunities and innovation, do not want to support a bill that will fairly foster U.S. economic growth.
These young people have grown up and gone to school in the United States and many do not even speak the native language of their parents. Legalizing their status would allow them to contribute to improving the country through their knowledge, talents and the taxes they pay.
The Service Employees International Union, which backs President Barack Obama, announced on Tuesday a joint advertising campaign with the Priorities USA Action group to show the “two faces” of Mitt Romney.
“Mr. Romney has been running Spanish language media ads to try to convince the community that he shares our values but his record on jobs, immigration and education paints a vastly different story,” SEIU said in a statement.
Romney and his three Republican rivals appear to have forgotten that the road to the White House requires securing a sizable portion of the Hispanic vote, which is a significant part of the electorate in swing states such as Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona. EFE