Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is chiding two other White House aspirants for their views on illegal immigration. During an interview with Radio Iowa late Wednesday afternoon, Romney criticized Democrat Hillary Clinton for failing to say in Tuesday’s debate with other Democratic presidential hopefuls whether she backs a move in New York State to give illegal immigrants driver’s licenses.
"I watched her dancing around the issue. I thought I’d tuned to ‘Dancing with the Stars,’" Romney said. "I still don’t know where she was coming out. It was clear by her choice of language that she’s in favor of driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, but she somehow was unwilling to say it and I rarely agree with John Edwards, but he pointed out that she had changed positions within two minutes and I don’t know that she changed so much as she just wanted to have it both ways."
Romney is also feuding with Republican rival Fred Thompson over the topic of illegal immigration. Thompson’s campaign charges that as governor, Romney had allowed three so-called "sanctuary cities" in Massachusetts where illegal immigrants wouldn’t be turned over to federal authorities if caught by local cops.
"Well, he’s wrong, very simply. I’ve made very clear my position and I’ve also got the record of being governor for four years," Romney said. "You know he was senator and during the time he was senator, so far as I can tell — and I’m open to his correction, he didn’t do anything to secure the borders or end illegal immigration."
Romney maintains that as governor of Massachusetts, he had an "aggressive" and "clear" stance against illegal immigration. "I vetoed a bill that would have given tuition breaks to illegal aliens. I insisted that we not give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens," Romney said, "and I authorized our state police to enforce federal immigration laws."
A spokesman for rival Fred Thompson says as recently as 2006 Romney had called President Bush’s approach to illegal immigrants "reasonable." That policy proposal, which critics labeled amnesty, went down in flames in the senate this past summer. During his conversation with Radio Iowa on Wednesday afternoon, Romney shot back at Thompson, questioning whether the former Tennessee senator had any original ideas for dealing with the problem of illegal immigration.
"When it comes to the right course going forward I’ve laid out the things that I would do, including among them reigning in federal funding to cities that would call themselves sanctuary cities," Romney said. "That’s something I proposed, I don’t know, six months ago or so. (Thompson) just came out a week or two ago with the same idea, heralding it as a new insight. It frankly, was something that I came out with a long time ago and I think (Colorado Congressman) Tom Tancredo had it before I did."
Romney tacked on a final barb directed at Thompson. "I don’t want to suggest that he doesn’t have a sound policy. It’s too much like mine to be wrong," Romney said, with a laugh. "But his record in the senate was not one of having fought to enforce our borders or to end illegal immigration and my record as a governor was to do exactly those things."
The Thompson camp, in contrast, cites Thompson’s vote for a bill back in 1996 that increased penalties for those caught smuggling illegal immigrants into the country or providing false documents. Thompson’s staff also points to his 2001 vote for a bill that added 400 staffers to what was then called the Immigration and Naturalization Service.