Mitt Romney has gone from frontrunner to punchline as some in the Florida debate audience laughed when he suggested that illegal immigrants should deport themselves.
Here is the video:
Transcript via Think Progress:
SMITH: Governor Romney, there’s one thing I’m confused about. You say you don’t want to go and round up people and deport them, but you also say they’d have to go back to their own questions and then apply for citizenship. So if you don’t deport them, how do you send them home?
ROMNEY: Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide that they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here. (Audience laughs) And so we’re not going to round people up. […] Well, yes, we’d have a card that indicates who’s here legally. And if people are not able to have a card, and have that through an e-verify system to determine that they are here legally, then they’re going to find they can’t find work here. And if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place they can get work.
Gee, at first glance that doesn’t sound so bad. Self-deportation would mean that illegal immigrants would go back home on their own if they couldn’t find jobs here. However, what Romney really means is that he plans to make life so awful for illegal immigrants that they choose to go back home. Romney wants those people who are here illegally to receive no benefits of any kind. He wants an employment verification system that would bar the hiring of illegal workers, and punish employers who hired non-citizens.
The problem with this plan is that it carries the risk of backfiring and creating an entire class of people who have no other choice but to turn to various forms of crime in order to survive. Romney assumes that illegal immigrants will eventually go home on their own, but what if they don’t? What if they decide to stay through any means necessary?
If more illegal immigrants turn to crime, more of them end up in jail and prison, and the taxpayers foot the bill for their incarceration.
The fact of the matter is that illegal immigrants are relied on to do jobs that Americans won’t do because of backbreaking physical labor and/or low pay. The dirty little secret is employers need the illegal immigrant labor supply, and the U.S. economy needs the workers.
Mitt Romney’s plan is a recipe for disaster because it denies the reality that there are only two realistic policy options on immigration. The government can either offer some sort of residency or citizenship, or they can go the opposite direction and send people back home. A policy of making life so horrible that illegal immigrants choose to go home is half baked and likely to backfire.
Romney’s answer was so poor that some in the audience thought it was a joke and laughed at him. Mitt Romney wore a suit of desperation tonight, and one has to wonder if his answer on illegal immigration may have self-deported the former frontrunner right out of the race.