Mitt Romney has a "sanctuary mansion" no more.
The former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate has formally cut ties with the landscaping company that manicures his lawn, after it was reported that the company continued to employ illegal immigrants a year after the hiring practices were first revealed.
Romney wrote a letter Tuesday to Ricardo Saenz, of Community Lawn Service in Chelsea, Mass., terminating his contract with the company.
"Today, I fired a landscaping company that I learned was employing people who are not permitted to work here in the United States," Romney said in a statement Tuesday. "After this same issue arose last year, I gave the company a second chance with very specific conditions. They were instructed to make sure people working for the company were of legal status. We personally met with the company in order to inform them about the importance of this matter. The owner of the company guaranteed us, in very certain terms, that the company would be in total compliance with the law going forward.
"The company's failure to comply with the law is disappointing and inexcusable, and I believe it is important I take this action."
The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that Romney decided to fire the company following fresh inquires about the company from the newspaper, which first reported a year ago that the landscaper employed illegal workers. The latest article said workers at Romney's house told Globe staff as recently as last week that they were illegal immigrants from Central America.
The lawn service company has provided endless fodder for Romney's rivals on the campaign trail — frontrunner Rudy Giuliani said during a debate last week that Romney ran a "sanctuary mansion," in response to criticism that as mayor of New York Giuliani permitted a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.
The comment drew strong applause from the crowd.
But it doesn't look as if Romney's action on the company will dampen the criticism.
Todd Harris, spokesman for GOP candidate Fred Thompson, said in a statement that "First Mitt Romney was for illegal immigrants working on his lawn, and then he was against it, then for it, and now I guess he’s against it again. Sounds like his position on amnesty."
In the letter to Saenz Tuesday, Romney wrote:
"Today I learned that employees of your company, who were assigned to work on my property, are not permitted to work in the United States. Given your company’s disregard for the clear instructions provided on this issue last year, I am forced to terminate my contract with your company, effective immediately. My family will no longer utilize your services and all scheduled visits are cancelled as of today. I am disappointed that our relationship must end on this note, but we simply cannot tolerate your inability to ensure that your employees are legally permitted to work in the United States. Thank you for your assistance."
Saenz told the Globe that the workers he hired were legal, but did not show reporters their papers.