In Second Debate, Romney Continues To Embrace "Self Deportation"

Last night’s debate presented Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney with yet another opportunity to turn his back on the "attrition through enforcement" model of Self Deportation, best embodied by Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation SB 1070. Once again, Romney did not in any way distance himself from his long-held immigration plan, the objective of which would be to make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they would simply leave the country. But don’t take my word for it—below are Romney’s own words on the subject.

"Now, let me mention one other thing, and that is self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we're not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead let people make their own choice. And if they -- if they find that -- that they can't get the benefits here that they want and they can't -- and they can't find the job they want, then they'll make a decision to go a place where -- where they have better opportunities. But I'm not in favor of rounding up people and -- and -- and taking them out of this country."

While it may be true that Romney says (he has a habit of changing his mind) that he is not for rounding up undocumented immigrants and removing them from the country, according to the Immigration Policy Center what he is proposing in "self deportation may actually be worse:

"Mr. Romney explains how he thinks "self-deportation" would work by saying “if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place they can get work.”  "Self-deportation" - or, more accurately, "attrition through enforcement" - goes far beyond denying unauthorized immigrants work. The strategy is currently embodied in state laws that include provisions denying education, transportation, and even basic services like water and housing to anyone who cannot prove legal immigration status. So far, the states that have attempted to roll out this plan have done little more than undermine basic human rights, devastate local economies, and place unnecessary burdens on U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants. "

Romney also went on at great length to distance himself from the idea that he believes that Arizona's self deportation law SB 1070 is a model for the country. Does this mean that he does not support an Arizona-style law for the country as a whole?

Absolutely not. The President rightly pointed out that Romney’s head immigration campaign advisor, Kris Kobach, actually wrote SB 1070, demonstrating the ridiculous nature of Romney’s denial.

"I do want to make sure that -- I do want to make sure that we just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn't referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it; not E-Verify, the whole thing. That's his policy. And it's a bad policy. And it won't help us grow."

That last point in the President’s statement is important, and illustrates that at the end of the day these two candidates could not differ more on the issue of immigration. The President believes that immigrants will help our country grow, as evidenced by his landmark Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This smart and fair move to grant targeted temporary reprieve for young undocumented immigrants is exactly the type of leadership that is missing from the Republican Party on this issue.

Last night that could not have been more clear.

Video of the Immigration Exchange is below:

For background information on NDN's work in this space please make sure to check out NPI Fellow Rob Shapiro's outstanding report, "The Impact of Immigration and Immigration Reform on the Wages of American Workers."

Also be sure to read the following reports by NDN/NPI’s 21st Century Border Initiative: Realizing the Value of Crossborder Trade with Mexico,  examines the rising importance of the export sector and how to strengthen our relationship with Mexico, our nation’s number two export market and Realizing the Full Value of Tourism from Mexico to the United States,  a tourism report that outlines five steps to help unlock the tremendous economic value of Mexican tourism into the United States.

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