Immigration Policies under a President Romney: Less Illegal, More Legal

Last week, in response to inquiries from, Mitt Romney offered some new insight into how he would administer immigration policy as president. His answers, delivered through a spokeswoman, clarified some of the statements that were delivered in a speech last month to Latino elected officials.

Romney has articulated a coherent approach to addressing the problem of illegal immigration, which imposes enormous economic, fiscal, and public safety burdens on American communities, even those far from the border zones. His humane, rule of law-based strategy stands in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s emphasis on accommodating illegal immigrants. 

His statements on legal immigration, however, while fairly bland and conventional, are also a little bit troubling. He would increase legal immigration and expand opportunities for U.S. employers to import workers from abroad, both skilled and unskilled. Romney apparently wanted to make sure that his strategy included some proposals that would be characterized as “pro-immigrant.”  Unfortunately, he seems to think that “pro-immigrant” necessarily means “more immigrants and more visas.”  

First let’s look at the border security and enforcement provisions.  The first clue that a Romney administration would be different from the status quo is his observation that currently, the border is far from secure: 

According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, Border Patrol lacks control of over half of our southwest border. And some estimates indicate that over 40% of illegal immigrants in America entered the country legally, but then overstayed their visas. 

Item One on his border strategy to-do list is “complete a high tech fence.”  Multi-layered fencing has enabled the Border Patrol to take back huge areas on our side, particularly around San Diego and El Paso, that were formerly a No Man’s Land open to illegal crossers, smugglers, and bandits. Just about anyone who has seen the fence would agree that it really does work, at least in areas where it can be patrolled.  The Obama administration, on the other hand, has chosen to surrender hundreds of square miles of territory in southern Arizona and other places to the Mexican cartels, leaving the Americans who live there to fend for themselves.

Romney also promises to implement an exit control system so that our homeland security agency finally will know which visitors have overstayed their visas.  Despite long-standing directives from Congress, plans for this system have languished for more than six years. Current DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has told Congress that she thinks exit controls are of “dubious” value, and is only grudgingly agreeing to put forward a plan this year in the face of bi-partisan nudging.  

Of course, simply knowing who has overstayed is not particularly helpful if the government is making no effort to deport the illegal aliens that come to their attention. Here too, Romney has displayed a refreshing commitment to enforcing the law. Asked by a Boston columnist if he would deport Uncle Omar, the president’s uncle -- an illegal alien fugitive discovered last year after his arrest for drunk driving, who is still working and driving for a liquor store in Massachusetts -- Romney replied with a decisive “yes.”