Based on media coverage, it would be easy to conclude that “self-deportation” is the centerpiece of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s position on immigration. It turns out there is a lot more to it than that.
On Friday, Romney spoke about immigration to an audience of over 600 Hispanic leaders at the Hispanic Leadership Network, a center-right advocacy group, conference in Miami. The conference was co-chaired by former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Here are four takeaways from Governor Romney’s remarks followed by Secretary Gutierrez’ reaction.
Takeaway #1: Legal immigration is good, it’s important, it’s an advantage, and America needs it.
Takeaway #2: To protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration.
• Build a better fence.
• Have enough personnel to protect the border.
• Put a card and verification system in place that works, allowing employers to know immediately whether or not a job applicant is authorized to work.
• Crack down aggressively on employers that hire people who are not authorized to work.
Takeaway #3: Implement constructive solutions for people waiting to immigrate legally and for people who immigrated illegally and live in the U.S.
• For the 4.5 million people waiting to immigrate legally, make legal immigration easier and more transparent.
• For the 11+ million people who immigrated illegally and live in the U.S., they’d need to get a temporary work permit, return to their home country to apply for residency (“self-deportation”), and get in line with those waiting to immigrate legally.
Takeaway #4: Substantially expand legal immigration, including implementation of a program that matches visas to employers’ needs in all sectors.
Governor Romney concluded his remarks by saying, “We are not anti-immigrant. We are not anti-immigration. We are the pro-immigration, pro-legality, pro-citizenship nation and party.”
Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is the Honorary Co-Chair of Mitt Romney’s National Hispanic Steering Committee. Secretary Gutierrez served in the Bush Administration from 2005 to 2009 and was in office during the last major attempt to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Prior to serving in the Bush Administration, he was Chairman and CEO of the Kellogg Company. His cabinet-level experience in government and C-level experience in corporate America give him a unique perspective on immigration, both in terms of politics and in terms of business.
When asked about Governor Romney’s remarks on immigration, Secretary Gutierrez said, “What I heard the Governor say this morning made a lot of sense. He’s talking about a national immigration strategy to put all of the pieces together because he recognizes what I haven’t heard anyone else recognize, which is that immigration is a strategic advantage. If you do it [immigration reform] in a piecemeal way, every piece becomes a political football. It becomes a tactical game in which Hispanics are being used. The important thing that I heard the Governor say, and it just shows that he’s a strategic thinker, that he has been working in business, that he knows how to think about problems in a strategic way before going down to the tactics, is to have a national immigration policy."
President Obama made a campaign promise to take up comprehensive immigration reform during his first year in office. That didn’t happen, but what has happened since he took office is that a record 1.2 million illegal immigrants have been deported. When asked about President Obama’s record on immigration, Secretary Gutierrez commented, "I've talked to a lot of Hispanics who are very frustrated, they feel like they’ve been taken for a ride. They were promised everything. He had the presidency, he had both houses, and he had popularity. It’s a matter of how important it [comprehensive immigration reform] was to him and it wasn’t that important to him because there are no results."
Pablo Schneider is president of Corporate Creations International. He is also a public speaker and serves as a contributor to several national publications.