Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is denouncing the idea he should have known a contractor he hired to do landscaping at his Massachusetts home was sending illegal immigrants to do the work. Romney fired the landscaping firm earlier this week, citing their use of undocumented workers.
Romney rivals, like Fred Thompson, have suggested this incident flies in the face of Romney’s assertion that he has the business management skills needed to fix the federal budget.
"What I see is that we have a country where there’s not have an employment vertification system that allows contractors, that allows companies to know who’s in the country legally and illegally," Romney says, "and I certainly have never proposed that homeowners have a responsibility when they hire a contractor or a company to then go out an inquire of the company’s employees whether or not they happen to be legal or not."
Romney suggests that kind of questioning could be illegal.
Illegal immigration has been a key issue in the Republican presidential race and Romney was ridiculed by Rudy Giuliani at a recent debate as the contractor Romney fired this week had employed illegals to work on Romney’s property once before.
"The individuals at my home were not my employees," Romney says. "They were hired by a company. The company made a mistake in judgment and that’s why I terminated the relationship with them."
Romney was pressed on the issue during a news conference this afternoon in Des Moines and Romney scoffed at a reporter’s suggestion that as someone who has proposed a crackdown on illegal immigration he should have "gone the extra mile" to ensure workers on his property were legal immigrants.
"Tell me how you’d do that in this country?" Romney replied. "So for instance let’s say I go to a restaurant — should I make sure that all the waiters there are legal? How would I do that?"
Romney also made a campaign appearance today at the Fort Des Moines, delivering a speech that focused on military issues to mark this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Romney repeated his call for a 100,000 troop increase in American military forces as well as additional investment in new equipment and protective gear for soldiers.