Romney's Untypical Views on Immigration

Mitt Romney might yet become the first Hispanic president of the United States. But first, the likely 2012 presidential candidate is doing something really important  -- going to bat for legal immigrants.

First things first. You heard right. I said Romney could become the first Hispanic president. The former Massachusetts governor compares to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who, like Romney, ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008. Each had one Mexican-born parent -- Richardson’s mother and Romney’s father.

In fact, both Mitt’s father -- George Romney -- and his grandfather -- Gaskell Romney -- were born in Mexico. His great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, fled the United States and crossed the southern border in 1884 to escape religious persecution. The result was the Mormon enclave of Colonia Juarez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which still exists to this day.

That not only makes Mitt Romney Hispanic, it also makes it all the more curious that “El Mitt” would -- as part of his extreme right-wing makeover in the 2008 election -- try to scare up votes with his best impersonation of Tom Tancredo, the former Colorado congressman who went nuts at the idea of having to “press 1 for English.” That sheet never seemed to fit.

Now we know why. Romney obviously has a soft spot for illegal immigrants, given that his great-grandfather was one. At least, I haven’t seen a copy of an engraved invitation from Mexican President Manuel Gonzalez -- who was in power in 1884 -- to Miles Park Romney, asking him to migrate south and bring with him all the Mormons he could find.

Be that as it may, unlike many Republicans --  including Tancredo, who calls for a moratorium on all immigration because he fears the demographic changes that foreigners bring with them -- Romney does seem to have a legitimate soft spot for legal immigrants. It probably comes from being part of a family that knows firsthand what it’s like to have to leave your country behind and gamble on the promise of brighter days down the road.