Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), pressed by reporter Adam Smith to offer his plan for immigration reform at tonight’s NBC debate in Florida, said he would support “self-deportation” — a policy to make immigrants lives so miserable that they would choose to leave the country on their own:
SMITH: Governor Romney, there’s one thing I’m confused about. You say you don’t want to go and round up people and deport them, but you also say they’d have to go back to their own countries and then apply for citizenship. So if you don’t deport them, how do you send them home?
ROMNEY: Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide that they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here. (Audience laughs) And so we’re not going to round people up. [...] Well, yes, we’d have a card that indicates who’s here legally. And if people are not able to have a card, and have that through an e-verify system to determine that they are here legally, then they’re going to find they can’t find work here. And if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place they can get work.
Romney’s position drew laughs from some in the audience. Watch it:
The position is not a new one for Romney — Eric Fehrnstrom, one of the campaign’s top advisers, offered the “turn the magnets off” solution in November — but it does represent a change from his 2008 policy, when he supported mass deportations.
The “self-deportation” policy is a continuation of Romney’s current radicalism on immigration. Romney has the backing of Kansas Secretary of State and anti-immigration zealot Kris Kobach (R), the author of both Arizona and Alabama’s anti-immigration laws. And Romney’s current “self-deportation” position basically boils down to the policy goal of the Alabama law: he wants to make immigrants’ lives so miserable, they choose to leave the country on their own.
Roy Beck, head of anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA, points out that the group has supported self-deportation “for years.” Beck describes self-deportation as “a concept of handling the illegal alien population with something between mass legalization and mass deportation. Simply put, you take away the things that drew illegal aliens here and let most of them self-deport.” Beck adds that if the U.S. denies immigrants “jobs and taxpayer-supported services, the country suffers minimally if it takes awhile for the illegal aliens to self-deport, buying their own tickets and paying their own shipping.”
In the past, NumbersUSA has espoused other radical positions, like saying guitarist Carlos Santana engaged in “hate speech against the American worker” when he criticized Georgia’s radical immigration law.