Political Animal


October 24, 2011 10:40 AM What ‘Romneycare’ offers undocumented immigrants

By Steve Benen

Arguably no issue has done more to undermine Rick Perry’s presidential campaign than a Texas policy that offers in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants. And no candidate has done more to exploit this revelation that the Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney, who’s relentlessly attacked the very idea of public aid to those he derisively labels “illegals.”

What goes around comes around, Mitt.

The Massachusetts healthcare law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in 2006 includes a program known as the Health Safety Net, which allows undocumented immigrants to get needed medical care along with others who lack insurance.

Uninsured, poor immigrants can walk into a health clinic or hospital in the state and get publicly subsidized care at virtually no cost to them, regardless of their immigration status.

The program, widely supported in Massachusetts, drew little attention when Romney signed the trailblazing healthcare law. But now it could prove problematic for the Republican presidential hopeful, who has been attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry for supporting educational aid for children of undocumented immigrants in Texas.

“We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits,” Romney said at the recent Fox News-Google debate in Florida.


Now, just to be clear about this, I happen to agree with Romney — at the least the 2006 version of him — about this, and I support the Massachusetts policy.

But in a political context, it would appear the former governor has a problem. After a month of condemning programs that provide state aid to undocumented immigrants, even blaming the aid for increasing illegal immigration, this new report shows that Romney’s health-care reform law — his only meaningful accomplishment in public office — provides at least some limited, taxpayer-subsidized health care assistance to these same undocumented workers.

The same state health care program covers abortion services, and served as the blueprint for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Romney’s willingness to hire undocumented workers to tend to his lawn has caused him some headaches. These new revelations appear to be much worse.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • walt on October 24, 2011 10:47 AM:

    It's a bit of a mystery to me how someone with so many Mitt-flops can be the frontrunner of ANY major-party nomination process. Still, I don't think this will do anything to alter Romney's inevitability. But this is more likely do to the weakness of the other candidates than the strength of Romney. Still, in the interest of fair play, I hope this skin him alive before making him their savior. This could be fun!

  • Josef K on October 24, 2011 10:50 AM:

    Romney’s willingness to hire undocumented workers to tend to his lawn has caused him some headaches. These new revelations appear to be much worse.

    Agreed, but I'm deeply conflicted in how I feel about this.

    On the one hand, anything that gets Romney off the stage for good is welcome.

    On the other, who're Republicans going to go with if Romney does concede?

    You see the conflict, right?

  • c u n d gulag on October 24, 2011 10:59 AM:

    The winning candidate will be the first one at a debate to look at the TV camera and say -

    "I once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die! And I'd gladly do it again!"

    Thunderous applause!!
    Especially if he/she pulls out a six-gun and shoots a random audience member.

    This candidate defeats Obama 51-49%, with 100% of religious right and the criminally insane 27%, present and accounted for in the voting.

  • Rathskeller on October 24, 2011 11:03 AM:

    Nice gotcha for the GOP primaries. Indirectly, this story makes me think the oppo research team of Perry is full of some dim bulbs because they missed this.

    cund gulag - huzzah indeed

  • jjm on October 24, 2011 11:07 AM:

    GOP seems to be in a race to the ethical bottom. He dared help someone? Off with his head!

  • howard on October 24, 2011 11:09 AM:

    C u n d gulag: brilliant!

  • hells littlest angel on October 24, 2011 11:10 AM:

    I look forward to Perry's incoherent attack on Romney in the next debate, and Romney's defense that he personally called Massachusetts hospitals and told them to get the illegals out of the emergency rooms because he's running for office, for pete's sake.

  • bigtuna on October 24, 2011 11:24 AM:

    herein lies the conundrum ... in Utah, they passed something less than a draconian law regarding undocumented workers, which raised the ire of the far far far right. However, given that Utah is run by LDS faithful, who profess something like kindness and charity to fellow humans [and, who see the hispanic communities as one of their biggest sources of growth in membership, to be a bit more catty] , and Mitt is a faithful LDA person, he has a bind.

    Most of these others do too - but the MSM seem incapable of asking a candidate the following question:

    You have clearly indicated that you are a religiously observant christian. Given that we read in the bible concepts such as:

    "The unfortunate commits himself to You; You have been the helper of the orphan... O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed."


    "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."


    how do you reconcile your draconian ideas regarding immigrants and your professed chritianity?

  • DAY on October 24, 2011 11:24 AM:

    Let's play "Ten Little Indians". Or, to be more politically correct, "99 bottles of Beer on the Wall."

    This latest news knocks off Romney. Instate tuition, ditto, Perry. Abortion/Cain. Oops! There goes another rubber tree plant.

    We eagerly anticipate the remake of "Last Man Standing". . .

  • flyonthewall on October 24, 2011 11:32 AM:

    cund gulag and hells littlest angel win the awards for this thread.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on October 24, 2011 12:36 PM:

    hells littlest angel: Just awesome. I need to stop writing posts that don't accomplish anything and just sit back and enjoy the humor from those who are better at it than me.

  • Anonymous on October 24, 2011 1:09 PM:

    I know that conventional wisdom says brokered conventions are not supposed to happen any more but the GOPlutocrats have created the perfect storm for one. If Mitt arrives at the convention with 40-45% of the delegates, there will be floor fights and hurt feelings from the Not Romney candidates and Paulistas.

    Other than Christie, who has made a flat Sherman statement? Pretty much no one. The weak field may be in part because if Mitt fails, the "chosen one" does not want to be covered in the primary mud.

    My bet is Jeb Bush or Daniels.

  • Rang on October 24, 2011 1:16 PM:

    As an immigration advocate working in Boston, I'm afraid you misunderstand what the state's healthcare system does for undocumented immigrants. Health Safety Net is not an insurance program. As with other states, emergency rooms in MA cannot turn away anyone for lack of insurance. What Health Safety Net does is reimburse emergency service providers for costs incurred in providing such services. So undocumented immigrants have the same access to "health care" that they do everywhere else, this program is really about helping out the hospitals and clinics that provide those services.

  • Rick B on October 24, 2011 6:28 PM:

    OK. Trouble for Mitt? If it's not Mitt, then who? Perry? Paul?

    Huntsman would be a better alternative, but he has no chance. Ron Paul is insane and will never get over 15% of the Republican voters. Perry is searching for a way to self-destruct in public. He'll only survive the way he did in his last gubernatorial campaign - avoid public debates. I doubt the press will permit that for long, even as poor as the political press has become.


    You are completely correct. No one in the Republican Party cares, though. Their hate and anger is going to be spewed towards someone and illegal immigrants are a very likely target.