Romney, Bush, immigration, and the GOP

The nation’s attention over the past couple of weeks has been focused on Florida, where Mitt Romney trounced Newt Gingrich Romney in the latest GOP primary contest. Romney’s victory is credited to a combination of the support he received from the many super PACs supporting his campaign and the coalescing of the conservative establishment around his candidacy. (Check out a piece I wrote about super PACs over at Busted Halo here).

The 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, and other establishment politicos including Bob McDonnell, governor of Virginia; former Minnestoa Governor Tim Pawlenty; and Rob Portman, senator from Ohio, have all endorsed Romney. Notably absent from this list is Florida’s former governor, Jeb Bush. The New York Times reports that Romney had aggressively courted Bush in the days leading up to the primary, even offering him the title of campaign co-chair. Bush ultimately refused, and the Times suggests that his discomfort with Romney’s extreme rhetoric on immigration led him to abstain from getting involved. From the article:


Mr. Bush has made clear in television interviews and in conversations with friends that he is troubled by the sharpening tenor of the race, particularly on immigration. He voiced his concern directly to Mr. Romney, two people close to him said, urging him to moderate his oratory and views to avoid a collapse of support among Hispanic voters in the general election.

While not exactly embracing a “round-em-up and throw-em-out” approach to immigration that is advocated by those on the far right, Romney instead says that his goal as president is to make life so tough for illegal immigrants that they will choose to “self-deport.” In a January debate, Romney explained his idea:

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.

Romney opposes most of the DREAM Act, a law that would give the children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, and he recently accepted the endorsement of controversial anti-immigrant activist Kris Kobach. Kobach helped write the foundation of the harsh immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama that treat all dark-skinned people as potential criminals.

With such harsh views on immigration, it isn’t surprising that Bush chose to sit this one out. Not only is it bad policy, it’s bad politics, especially for a man who wants to follow his father’s and brother’s footsteps into the presidency himself.

What should people of faith, especially Catholics, contribute to the debate around immigration? Three brief examples:

  • Inside Higher Ed reports that Catholic colleges are leading on issues related to the DREAM Act:

Catholic colleges and the Catholic church, led by Cardinal Roger Mahony, who retired as archbishop of Los Angeles in 2011, are quietly stepping up efforts to enroll and assist students whose parents came to the United States illegally. In recent months, Mahony has held meetings with college leaders and students to find other ways to engage institutions on the issue. The church is planning to distribute several versions of an immigration curriculum, so that colleges can cover the issue from a Catholic perspective in a wide range of classes.

  • The Archdiocese of San Francisco is publicly backing legislation that would lessen California’s involvement in a federal immigration program that checks the documentation of people in state jails, “arguing it is tearing immigrating families apart, setting up minor criminal offenders or those with no convictions for deportation.”
  • Bishops and other church leaders urged the faithful “to be politically active at both the local and national level to promote a humane reform of immigration law” at a forum last month hosted by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Salt Lake City.

Because the economy will be the primary issue in the general election, immigration will naturally rise up as one of the top ancillary concerns. While Romney will undoubtedly shift to the center on most issues, Catholics should continue to use their voice to advocate for an immigration system that treats all people with dignity and respect, especially those who risk their lives for new hope and opportunity.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Amy Ho-Ohn
7 years 1 month ago
Immigration reform is dead while the economy is bad. Contrary to stereotype, there are a lot of Americans who want those jobs. There will be even more when unemployment insurance runs out, which it eventually will. The only way to revive immigration reform is to revive the economy.
7 years 1 month ago
The problem with immigration reform is that both sides are schizophrenic on the issue.  On the GOP side they supposedly are for free markets and free trade but then they somehow think that free immigration will be bad for the economy.  The Dems are for social engineering with price controls and wage controls but yet they supposedly favor immigrants.  These forces, in my opinion, are opposing.  Either you favor free immigration, free trade, and a free economy (as I do) OR you favor price controls, wage controls and immigration restictions.
J Cosgrove
7 years 1 month ago
Immigration is an emotionally charge issue because nearly 95% of us can trace our roots only 2-3 generations back.  One set of my grandparents were married in Dublin while my other grandmother was born in Sweden. Most of the Itailans I know say their grand parents came here in the 1920's and 1930's.  I am sure most of us have similar backgrounds.

However, one can not have open immigration or else we would have hundreds of millions here within a few years.  I do not think anyone is in favor of that because of the obvious dislocations.  The question is what to do with those who are here illegally and does one give them priority over those who are immigrating here legally.  I have not seen an intelligent solution yet.  Obviously the illegal immigrants are mostly taking manual jobs but it is the poor who are mostly out of work now.  So that represents a quandry for politicians.  If we restrict immigration will it give jobs to the poor, if we give amnesty to them, will it create even more unemployment? 

Want a real time experiment.  One is going on in Alabama right now.  Apparently there are jobs that Americans will not do.

And by the way our legal immigration policy has been rigged for years .  It specifies that certain groups are favored.  The number one group of new citizens are Mexicans, but only a small fraction of the Mexicans here, and the next few groups are all Asian such as Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and Filipinos.
7 years 1 month ago
 "one can not have open immigration or else we would have hundreds of millions here within a few years"


What is the evidence for this and what is the evidence that this would be bad.
J Cosgrove
7 years 1 month ago

What is the evidence for this and what is the evidence that this would be bad''

Well right now we have theoretically 12-20 million here when it is illegal.  What do you think would be the inflow if there were no barriers?    Then they would not have employment and would need to be fed and sheltered and would shortly lead to social and health issues. 

You can disagree with that appraisal but I do not think many would join you.  It would be nice to feed, clothe and shelter the world but as it is now, that is currently out of reach.  Better to make living in their own country more attractive.   No country in the world has open immigration though in some areas of the world borders are so porous that people can move very easily between countries but the host country will rarely provide more than token services for those who migrate.  As I said you are welcome to disagree.

By the way it is not just the United States that has migration issues.  Mexico has strict rules preventing migration form its south and when I was in Costa Rica once they talked about the problem of people from Nicaragua coming across the borders seeking services and how they had to limit this.  And Argentina needs guest laborers from Bolivia to harvest their crops.
7 years 1 month ago
I would rather have a free economy than send all of the so-called aid to poor countries.   No only do I think that this would be great for our economy and the world economy but I also think it is the just and moral thing to do.

I think that you will be hard-pressed to find a correlation with free immigration and a deteriorating economy.  I think you will find the opposite to be true.

It is strange that everyone takes it as self evident that if there is mass immigration from US states to your state that this state would be doing well economically yet if these immigrants come not from different US states but from across the border and have different color skin and a different language it is somehow bad for the economy.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 1 month ago
This issue is even more complex than this article would indicate.
Consider two pregnant Mexican women. One applies for immigration legally and awaits approval/denial of her request, which is delayed or denied. The other enters the country illegally.
In this situation, the mother of the child who broke the law and entered the US illegally, born in US territory, is rewarded with citizenship for her child. The one who acted legally according to US law does not gain entrance into the US and, because she obeyed the law rather than broke it, her child does not gain US citizenship.
Hence we have the incongruent situation of rewarding the mother of the child who acted illegally by awarding her child citizenship and its benefits, while we punish the mother of the child who acted legally and whose entrance was delayed or denied by denying her child those benefits.
This seems contrary to justice, social justice, and basic common sense.
More than that, is this a sane way to run a country? 


The latest from america

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shakes hands with Alabama State Sen. Henry Sanders at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala., on March 19. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., responded to a question about his religious views by talking about his own faith and what he sees as a distortion of Christianity among U.S. conservatives.
Since retiring from my job, my husband has found me irritating. We had a talk (after fighting), and he is right: I am mothering him. Smothering him. “I have a mother,” he said. “I want a wife, a partner, a best friend.”
Valerie SchultzMarch 25, 2019
Jesus asks us to be generous with the poor. It’s one of the foundations of his public ministry: caring for the poor himself and asking his disciples to do so.
James Martin, S.J.March 25, 2019
We are invited, today, to listen—and as the psalmist today colorfully puts it, God has even done us the courtesy of digging out our ears so that we can hear.