Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was asked twice today about his views on immigration reform.
First, Romney got the question from someone during an early morning stop in Boone. Then, over the noon-hour, Romney spoke to a crowd of about 130 people gathered in a restaurant that’s about 20 miles away from the Marshalltown meatpacking plant that was raided by U.S. immigration agents late last year. Romney was asked to articulate his views on immigration.
"I love immigration. I love legal immigrants coming into our country," Romney told the crowd at Rube’s Steakhouse in Montour. "My guess is everybody in this room is a descendant of an immigrant or an immigrant himself. So we love immigration as Americans. Immigration brings us education, new cultures, ideas, innovative talent. It’s wonderful to have legal immigration. I don’t like illegal immigration."
The man who questioned Romney specifically asked whether Romney supported construction of a fence along the southern U.S. border. Romney replied that it is important to "secure" the border. "Make sure that we have a clear, defined border between ourselves and places that want to bring people in illegally," Romney said. "…That’s not enough, just securing the border. In my opinion, we need to do one thing more, at least, and that is to have an employment verification system."
Romney envisions a tamper-proof I.D. card that would let businesses know whether the person is in the country legally. "Then if that employer hires that person, we treat that employer just like someone who doesn’t pay their taxes," Romney said.
Romney argued, though, that American businesses need "skilled" immigrants. "If you’re so lucky to be in India, let’s say, and you’ve done real well in school and you’ve gotten a scholarship to come to Iowa State to study…you’re going to get a Ph.D, the only condition…is once you’ve got your degree, you’ve got to go home. In my opinion if you’ve got a Ph.D from Iowa State, we’d like you to stay," Romney says. "We’ll staple a green card to your diploma."
Romney said current immigration policy has made it "almost impossible" for people with skills and advanced degrees to become citizens, "but if you don’t have any skill or any education, you can just walk across the border." Romney declared that current immigration laws do not make sense. However, Romney did not talk about what to do with the illegal immigrants who are here in the country already, a subject another GOP presidential candidate –Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo – has made the sole focus of his campaign.
Another rival, Arizona Senator John McCain, has helped craft a plan that McCain describes as earned citizenship: letting illegal immigrants stay if they pay a "substantial" fine, pay back taxes, learn English, hold a job here for six years and then apply to become a U.S. citizen.