Column: Hoisted on his own petardSAN DIEGO — I have a feeling that Mitt Romney woke up this morning with a headache — the political kind that comes when a line of attack you’ve used against an opponent comes back to knock you upside the head.
By: Ruben Navarrette, Worthington Daily Globe
SAN DIEGO — I have a feeling that Mitt Romney woke up this morning with a headache — the political kind that comes when a line of attack you’ve used against an opponent comes back to knock you upside the head.
Luckily, Romney can get medical attention. Even if he wasn’t worth more than $250 million, the former governor of Massachusetts could always fall back on the health care law he signed in the Bay State.
According to the Los Angeles Times, that law ensures that just about anyone can see a doctor — including those illegal immigrants that Romney has been trying to demagogue in order to tweak Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Those howls of laughter you hear are coming from Texas, where Republicans are not used to being portrayed as soft on illegal immigration. They have been cast that way in the GOP primary campaign, thanks to Romney. Their sin: In 2001, Texas lawmakers passed a bill to offer in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students who go to a state college or university. Perry signed the bill, and he defends it to this day.
This tuition adjustment, Romney argues, provides a “magnet” that lures illegal immigrants to cross the border. It’s been clear for some time that, even for someone whose ancestors migrated to Mexico to avoid religious persecution and then returned to the United States years later, Romney doesn’t understand immigration.
We know this because immigration experts in Massachusetts, including some who were appointed to state advisory boards by Romney, told USA Today that the former governor’s experience with the issue is sparse. Westy Egmont, co-chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Refugees and Immigrants — a position he held during Romney’s term as governor from 2003 to 2007 — told the newspaper that Romney was “remarkably ill-informed” about immigration issues during his time in office and that the Republican developed a hard line as he prepared to run for president.
And we know this because Romney has said some dumb things about immigration during the GOP debates. When he was accused of hiring a landscaping company that employed illegal immigrants from Guatemala to work on his home and waiting a year before firing the company after he became aware of the infraction, Romney promised that, if elected president, he would make it easier for homeowners to know if the person they’re hiring is in the country legally by making the federal E-Verify program mandatory. E-Verify is supposed to allow employers to check the validity of employees’ Social Security numbers.
The problem? Sorry, Governor, E-Verify doesn’t apply to homeowners. That’s one of the main reasons it is so ineffective at curbing illegal immigration.
However, it turns out, Romney does know a lot about magnets. By his logic, as faulty as it is, after illegal immigrants made their way to Texas for in-state tuition, they could have been drawn up to Massachusetts for free health care.
Who says there is no poetry in politics? This is poetic justice. It is mighty satisfying to see someone who has been riding the tiger of anti-illegal immigration sentiment to gin up votes in a Republican primary get hoisted on his own petard.
The Romney campaign blames the current governor of Massachusetts, Democrat Deval Patrick, for making it easier for illegal immigrants to get health care. But, according to the Los Angeles Times, state health officials who helped write the law insist that there was “broad understanding” when Romney signed the bill that it would benefit those who were in the country illegally.
As the Perry campaign was only too eager to point out, rules adopted in 2004 — while Romney was governor — made clear that citizenship was not required to be eligible for treatment under the Massachusetts health care law.
Hopefully, we’ve seen the end of Romney’s holier-than-thou attitude on illegal immigration.
So now can we finally put to rest this ridiculous magnet argument? State health care benefits aren’t magnets. In-state tuition isn’t a magnet. The only magnets that attract illegal immigrants are jobs, jobs, jobs — in Texas, in Massachusetts, and in just about every one of the other 48 states.
You want to cut off that magnet? Fine. But it’ll require doing something that Republicans running for office don’t like to even discuss: punishing employers. Taking that sort of hard line could cripple a candidate’s fundraising efforts, and hurt his chances.
Talk about a headache.
Ruben Navarrette’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.