It’s been mentioned a few times in the course of the long GOP presidential primary season, but we wanted to make sure the local and regional origins of a particular line frequently employed by Mitt Romney on immigration policy–that he would not forcibly deport illegal immigrants, but create harsh conditions that would lead to them “self-deporting”–were properly explored.
Courtesy The Daily Beast, here’s a prime example of Romney’s usage from late January:
Romney’s introduction of the concept of “self-deportation” in that debate didn’t go over well with the conservative audience, as you can hear from, well, the chuckling. Then-opponent Newt Gingrich lambasted Romney suitably:
“You have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic $20 million income for no work to have some fantasy this far from reality,” Gingrich told Univision interviewer Jorge Ramos. “For Romney to believe that somebody’s grandmother is going to be so cut off that she is going to self-deport, I mean this is an Obama-level fantasy.”
But we wonder if that audience of rock-ribbed conservative primary voters would have been laughing if they had seen this clip of our own ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo?
This clip of Tom Tancredo–one of the most widely-known (and reviled) proponents of cracking down on illegal immigration in America–explaining that his position on immigration has always been about “self-deportation” comes from a May 3rd, 2011 debate on the issue for Intelligence Squared, a PBS/NPR project. Tancredo’s partner in this Oxford-style team debate was none other than Kansas Secretary of State and Arizona SB-1070 co-author Kris Kobach–the Romney advisor who the campaign variously claims, and keeps at arm’s length.
Bottom line: at some point this concept of “self-deportation” is going to get repackaged into something more palatable and ostensibly compassionate–a “centrist” way of letting the problem “work itself out.” After all, Romney tried this line out on conservatives and got laughed at, right? One way or another, some kind of damage control on the issue is a matter of necessity:
In his pursuit of the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney took an aggressive position on immigration, denouncing the Dream Act, suggesting illegal immigrants should “self-deport” and attacking rivals who appeared to show compassion for some undocumented immigrants.
That has left the presumptive nominee in a deep hole with Hispanic voters, trailing President Obama by more than 40 points among this critically important constituency in [a late April] NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. The question is whether Romney can credibly undo the damage from the primaries without igniting a renewed debate about his consistency on the issues.
When that happens, a clip of Tancredo advocating for the same thing ought to keep it real.