With the Republican presidential campaign locked in a slugfest between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney over immigration, more reasoned Republican voices are struggling to get an audience.
During the Republican debate last week in Tampa, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said that when conditions become so unfavorable for undocumented immigrants, they will leave the United States voluntarily.
“The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide 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,” said Romney.
“[I]f people are not able to have a card, and have through an E-Verify system determine that they are here illegally, then they’re going to find they can’t get work here. And if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place where they can get work,” he said.
Former Speak of the House Gingrich took aim at “self-deportation” a few days later in an interview on Univision, a Spanish-speaking TV network, calling Romney’s plan a “fantasy.”
“I think you have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts … you know, $20 million a year income with no work to have some fantasy this far from reality,” said Gingrich. “Remember that I talked very specifically about people who have been here a long time, who are grandmothers and grandfathers, who have been paying their bills, they have been working, they are part of the community. Now, for Romney to believe that somebody’s grandmother is going to be so cut off that she is going to self-deport, I mean this verges – this is an Obama-level fantasy.”
When the candidates gathered in Jacksonville for another debate, Romney accused Gingrich of airing on Spanish-language radio an “inexcusable” ad that said Romney was the most anti-immigrant candidate.
The CNN debate moderator asked Gingrich to clarify if he thought Romney was the most anti-immigrant candidate.
“I think, of the four of us, yes,” said Gingrich.
“That’s simply unexcusable. That’s inexcusable. And, actually, Senator Marco Rubio came to my defense and said that ad was inexcusable and inflammatory and inappropriate,” said Romney, referring to Florida’s Republican senator. “Mr. Speaker, I’m not anti-immigrant. The idea that I’m anti-immigrant is repulsive.”
Gingrich said, “You tell me what language you would use to describe somebody who thinks that deporting a grandmother or a grandfather from their family” is a workable solution.
Attracting little attention during the heated week over immigration was a brief word issued by Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Haslam said a bill that would target the undocumented would not be part of his forthcoming budget.
Unlike his fellow Republican governors in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, Haslam appeared to take a more moderate approach.
Meanwhile former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said that the Alabama law (Beason-Hammon Act or House Bill 56) and “other things like that” turn off Hispanic voters from supporting the Republican Party.
Writing in the Washington Post, Bush said that “Hispanic voters will represent the margin of victory” in the upcoming elections.
Bush also spoke against claims from some in the Republican party that undocumented immigrants don’t want to learn English.
“Hispanics here speak or are learning English – not French, Chinese or Hindi,” said Bush. “There is a lesson in that, and Republicans should be the ones to champion it.”