Politics & Government

Out of bounds! Romney misleads on immigration record

Throw the flag against: Mitt Romney.

Call: Unsportsmanlike conduct.

What happened: On Friday, Romney began running a 30-second television ad, "Change Immigration." It says that "as governor, I authorized the state police to enforce immigration laws. I opposed driver's licenses and in-state tuition for illegal aliens. As president, I'll oppose amnesty, cut funding for sanctuary cities and secure our borders. Legal immigration is great, but illegal immigration — that's got to stop."

Why that's misleading:

(1.) Romney signed an agreement with the federal government on Dec. 13, 2006 — three weeks before he left office in a four-year term — giving Massachusetts police authority to stop illegal immigrants. A month later, new Gov. Deval Patrick rescinded the authority. Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said that it took Romney six months to work out the agreement, and as president he'd work to streamline and promote the process.

(2.) During Romney's four-year term, three Massachusetts cities were considered sanctuary cities. Cambridge had that status since 1985, and in 2006, its city council unanimously reaffirmed that status.

FactCheck.org noted that "we find no evidence that Romney took a hard stance against those cities' policies as governor." Madden said that Romney worked with Washington to "create a state and federal partnership to enforce federal immigration laws" and that resulted in the state police order.

(3.) Romney for several years used a lawn service at his home that employed illegal immigrants. Madden explained Friday that "Governor Romney hired a company, not the individuals who were not of legal status. The owner of the company was a legal immigrant who claimed that workers were legal, though he did not request documentation." Romney, Madden said, "obviously had no knowledge of the legal status of the company's individual employees."

Penalty: By all accounts, Romney did oppose amnesty, driver's licenses and in-state tuition for illegal aliens. But there are serious questions about whether he tried hard to crack down on sanctuary cities and round up undocumented immigrants. His ad misleads, saying he was much more vigorous and vigilant than the record supports. Fine him 15 yards and loss of one speaking turn at the next debate.

David Lightman