Flashback: in 2005, Romney said a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants was not “amnesty”

In tonight’s GOP debate (which I did not watch), apparently Newt Gingrich took some heat from other Republicans – notably Mitt Romney – for staking out a non-rabid position on illegal immigration.  According to the NY Times, Gingrich “said he supported finding a way to allow the millions of illegal immigrants to stay in this country legally – without granting amnesty.”  Romney pounced: “That position was immediately jumped on by Mr. Romney and Mrs. Bachmann, both of whom decried it as amnesty, no matter what Mr. Gingrich calls it.”

And, it’s funny, because way back in, oh, 2005, Mitt Romney refused to describe as “amnesty” a proposal crafted by John McCain and Ted Kennedy, and endorsed by President Bush, that would allow illegal immigrants to stay and apply for citizenship, as long as they registered, worked, paid a fine, and caught up on their taxes.  Here’s a Boston Globe story explaining what Romney used to think (the story, by Scott Helman, is dated March 16, 2007, and entitled “Romney’s words grow hard on immigration” – you need a subscription to access the full text):

In a November 2005 interview with the Globe, Romney described immigration proposals by McCain and others as “quite different” from amnesty, because they required illegal immigrants to register with the government, work for years, pay taxes, not take public benefits, and pay a fine before applying for citizenship.

“That’s very different than amnesty, where you literally say, ‘OK, everybody here gets to stay,’” Romney said in the interview. “It’s saying you could work your way into becoming a legal resident of the country by working here without taking benefits and then applying and then paying a fine.”

Romney did not specifically endorse McCain’s bill, saying he had not yet formulated a full position on immigration. But he did speak approvingly of efforts by McCain and Bush to solve the nation’s immigration crisis, calling them “reasonable proposals.”

Romney also said in the interview that it was not “practical or economic for the country” to deport the estimated 12 million immigrants living in the US illegally. “These people contribute in many cases to our economy and to our society,” he said. “In some cases, they do not. But that’s a whole group we’re going to have to determine how to deal with.”

It’s not exactly news that Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on an issue.  What’s remarkable is that people seem to forget about it.


3 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Whats remarkable is that its his strategy

    It’s not exactly news that Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on an issue. What’s remarkable is that people seem to forget about it.

    I think he and his team are banking on it. They are recasting themselves to the right of Huntsmen and to the left of the rest of the field (before anyone points it out this is obviously still way far to the right for American voters). What is most telling was when he said “I can’t have illegals mowing my lawn I am running for office”. He is the most nakedly transparent politician in quite some time who will do or say anything to get elected because he believes ideology and vision are irrelevant when compared to his resume. He believes that he alone has the unique skill set and management ability to ‘solve problems’ and be a technocrat running the country.

    This narrative will serve him well and allow him to be insulated from criticism until the general, but he will then get savaged by the Obama team. The old Indiana workers from the Kennedy ads will come back, all the flip flopping on social issues, etc. The bigger problem is that the Obama camp has yet to come up with a positive vision for what this President believes in since time after time he has also settled for political expediency. Painting Romney as a flip flopper is easier than cutting open a cardboard box with a buzz saw, but painting an authentic and positive vision for this President will be the tougher task. He needs to sell America on his vision of the future, otherwise if it is two pragmatists up against each other America will pick the technocrat without the existing bad economic record.

    • and you're surprised at what?

      I served with Mitt Romney and worked with him from my position on the Turnpike Board regarding the Big Dig and other MTA issues. In my lifetime, I have never witnessed another human being with more positions on each issue than Mitt. Fox, MSNBC, CNN should just allow him to debate himself instead of the seven others on the stage. I supported him in 2002 for many reasons, but this is getting tough to watch.
      So too, of course he and supported the Kennedy/Bush/McCain amnesty issue. But now he too has flipped on that one too.

      • Not surprised

        Just calling it as I see it. The only principle Mitt Romney believes in is Mitt Romney. And if this is the Christy I think it is, than I know you know better than most.

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