What a difference five years makes. Last week, Mitt Romney accused Newt Gingrich of proposing “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, but in 2006, Romney endorsed an immigration policy almost identical to the one Gingrich backs now, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
“Law-abiding people who pay taxes, learn English, and don’t rely on government benefits should be allowed to get in line to apply for citizenship,” Bloomberg News reported Romney as saying in a 2006 interview. Romney made his comments before he announced his 2008 presidential run.
“We’re not going to go through a process of tracking them all down and moving them out,” Romney told Bloomberg in 2006. “We should have those individuals who are here illegally begin a process either of returning to their homes -- particularly those that are unable to be here without government support or those who are involved in crime --or beginning a process of registering for a citizenship, applying for citizenship, and then carrying out the process necessary to get there."
During a Republican presidential candidates' debate last week, Gingrich took a similar position, saying that law-abiding people who have established deep roots in the United States and have lived here for 25 years or longer should be given a path to legality. Romney criticized Gingrich's comments, saying, “Amnesty is a magnet.”
However, some Romney strategists suggested that the former Massachusetts governor's stance on immigration shifted in 2007, after he saw how important the issue was to Iowa voters. Soon after, he began his first presidential run, Romney changed course and began criticizing Republican rival Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for being soft of immigration, Bloomberg reported.
Andrea Saul, spokesman for Romney, disputed the notion that the candidate has changed his position. In an email to National Journal, she wrote, “The key issue is whether the people who are currently here illegally ought to be able to jump the line and be granted an amnesty ahead of those who have been legitimately waiting their turn. On this matter, Governor Romney has always been 100 percent consistently opposed to any special cuts for those here illegally.”