Political Animal


January 24, 2012 11:15 AM ‘Self-deportation’

By Steve Benen

A couple of months ago, Romney campaign spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom was asked what a Romney administration would do with undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Fehrnstrom said Romney “doesn’t believe in granting them amnesty,” but when asked what Romney sees as an alternative, the campaign spokesperson would only say, “He would not grant them amnesty.”

Team Romney was comfortable saying what they’re against, but not what they’re for. It wasn’t exactly illuminating.

Last night, Adam Smith, the political editor at the Tampa Bay Times, asked the former governor a good question: “You say you don’t want to go and round up people and deport them, but you also say that they would have to go back to their home countries and then apply for citizenship. So, if you don’t deport them, how do you send them home?”

Romney replied, “Well, the answer is self-deportation.”

And what, exactly, does that mean? Adam Serwer explained that the point is to make life so miserable for these immigrants that they simply leave on their own.

This is the right-wing’s answer to the question of how you deport eleven million unauthorized immigrants: You don’t. You force them to “deport themselves.” Although immigration reform advocates would prefer a solution that involves a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here, Romney and his top immigration advisers believe they can remove millions of people through heavy-handed enforcement that makes life for unauthorized immigrants intolerable. This approach is notable for its complete lack of discretion and flexibility. Unauthorized immigrant parents with citizen children who need to go to school? Americans who are married to an undocumented immigrant who needs medical treatment? “Self-deportation” hits them all with the same mailed fist. […]

[M]ake no mistake, when Romney is discussing “self-deportation,” he’s talking about creating a United States where parents are afraid to register their kids for school or get them immunized because they might be asked for proof of citizenship. He’s talking about the type of country where local police can demand your immigration status based on mere suspicion that you don’t belong around here. “Self-deportation” is just a cleaner, less cruel-sounding way of endorsing harsh, coercive government policies in order to make life for unauthorized immigrants so unbearable that they have no choice but to find some way to leave.

On immigration, it’s fair to say Romney is the most right-wing candidate of the modern political era.

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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  • DAY on January 24, 2012 11:23 AM:

    Well, it is a "kinder, gentler" solution, that Newt's way to handle pot dealers. . .

    (for those out of the loop, he said we should execute them!)

  • c u n d gulag on January 24, 2012 11:25 AM:

    If gasoline wasn't to gosh-darned expensive, maybe Mitt's preferred method would be self-immolation.

    Well, I suppose we could make them buy the gas, and have a government program that hands out matches.

  • G.Kerby on January 24, 2012 11:28 AM:

    Pretty funny considering that Willard is an "anchor baby" himself.

  • Josef K on January 24, 2012 11:33 AM:

    On immigration, it’s fair to say Romney is the most right-wing candidate of the modern political era.

    Yet another point for Team Obama to amplify and hammer Willard with, dolled out by Romney himself no less.

    Its like this guy doesn't even realize how bad he's making himself look (at least to those of us using our higher cognitive functions).

  • ww on January 24, 2012 11:40 AM:

    You don't go wrong in this country attacking Mexicans. Yeah, George Romney was born in Mexico but he was the good kind - white. For the millions who do the hard labor in agriculture, slaughterhouses, construction, landscaping crews, etc., they're on the wrong side of the gated communities they helped build. Cheap labor is good when it saves a white person money and very, very wrong when it comes with a brown face.

  • stormskies on January 24, 2012 11:41 AM:

    I think it's fair to say now that buffoon Romney is nothing more than the shit paper that Lucifer uses to wipe it's asshole .......

  • Charley James on January 24, 2012 11:49 AM:

    To the primary voting Repubican base, even "self-deportation" might be too warm and fuzzy a policy. After all, look at how quickly Rick Parry changed his position on immigration after entering the race and finding no room for even a semi-reasonable policy.

  • Trollop on January 24, 2012 11:53 AM:

    If you undergo self importation, does that mean that you're self important?

    Leave it to the GOP frontrunners to make theoretical immigration policy even sillier than it got the last time they brought it up.

  • Eeyore on January 24, 2012 11:56 AM:

    Maybe if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, Romney will self-deport to the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, or Switzerland.

    Good riddance.

  • cmdicely on January 24, 2012 11:58 AM:

    Unauthorized immigrant parents with citizen children who need to go to school? Americans who are married to an undocumented immigrant who needs medical treatment? “Self-deportation” hits them all with the same mailed fist.

    No, realistically, its much worse than that. Efforts to impose "self-deportation" on unauthorized immigrants also, inevitably, hit authorized immigrants, and non-immigrant citizens that happen to be ethnic minorities, and those close to them, as well. Because inevitably, they create an obligation for people in various positions to identify, report, and have someone follow-up on suspected unauthorized immigrants.

    Of course, if you want to know what it takes to effectively cause "self-deportation" and what kind of collateral damage it causes, you can always look to the recent economic collapse resulting from the policy of financial deregulation, which has been the most successful policy at actually producing "self-deportation".

  • PB on January 24, 2012 12:01 PM:

    It's my understanding that Germany first tried solving its "Jewish Problem" with exactly this approach in the 1930's.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 24, 2012 12:02 PM:

    When President Mittens' plan for the browns is show to be an abject failure, then we can implement the Kansas/Oklahoma plan.

    Step 1) Have a kristallnacht for brown people.

    Step 2) Have a hunting open season for brown people.

    If any brown people dare stay in White Amerikkka, proceed to step 3. No, it is inconsequential if they were born in the U.S. and do not speak Spanish!

    Step 3) Create walled brown ghettos and herd the brown people into them.

    Step 4) Create Work is Freedom camps to provide a final solution for the brown problem.

    As we diminish the number of brown people, openings should become available in the ghettos and camps to address the islamic and then black problems.

    Actually, Mitt is being hypocritical about this topic. We, of the funding wing of the republican party, actually favor having an abundance of brown labor in our country. They work cheap and depress wage scales. If we get rid of the browns, who will manicure our lawns and golf courses and clean our swimming pools at so little cost?

  • Hedda Peraz on January 24, 2012 12:14 PM:

    @RepublicanPointOfView -

    Hush now, dear heart; this is just rhetoric for the campaign, and is meant to drive the rubes, er base, to the polls.
    Once elected, never fear, there will still be an amply supply of Brown People to take on the work that Americans Won't Do.

  • BetweenTheLines on January 24, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Romney and his top immigration advisers believe they can remove millions of people through heavy-handed enforcement that makes life for unauthorized immigrants intolerable.

    I like it. Simple. Effective. Has Romney's team thought to ask these unauthorized immigrants to wear an armband for identification? That sure would help the process along.

  • Upper West on January 24, 2012 12:26 PM:

    I would call it "constructive deportation," as in "constructive discharge," -- when an employer makes it so miserable for an employee that he has no choice but to quit. (and the employer can try to claim that he was not fired).

  • SadOldVet on January 24, 2012 12:29 PM:

    All brown people should be deported...

    Except for the ones from Guadalajara who run my favorite Mexican food restaurant.

    and except for my best friends wife who was born in Los Angeles and is a 3rd grade bilingual teacher in Milwaukee.

    and except for my old Army buddy from Fort Bliss days (on the Mexican border) who was born in San Francisco and speaks only English and Chinese. He & I were the only ones who did not consider it strange that a pale white male from the midwest was translating Spanish for someone named Jose Gujardo.

    and except for the hundreds of high quality Americans of Mexican heritage that I have worked with in the past.

    and except for ....

    Just do not forget that for republicans one size fits all rules do not work except when they are created by repukes and then no exceptions should be permitted.

  • Roddy McCorley on January 24, 2012 12:29 PM:

    I believe the applicable phrase here is "reign of terror."

  • Robert on January 24, 2012 2:26 PM:

    Mit apparently is not familiar with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Fortunately for all citizens and residents the Federal Courts are.

  • Tom Dibble on January 24, 2012 3:17 PM:

    I don't think Romney minds the obvious 1930s Germany metaphor being pointed out.

    Does Romney care that his immigration "policy" is exactly what France has been doing, and which has caused a massive Muslim ghetto in France which periodically blows up in riots and killings?

    For a party so afraid of European ideas, they sure do love them some European failures!

  • Rick B on January 24, 2012 3:28 PM:

    Give Romney credit. That is a massively understated way of saying that he wants an America where every policeman can ask anyone "Papers, Please."

    There is no longer any way of questioning Romney's authoritarian credentials.

  • biggerbox on January 24, 2012 3:36 PM:

    So, the plan is to make the United States worse than the third-world hell-hole they came from, so they'd rather go home? Yeah, that'll be pleasant for the rest of us.

    Perhaps someone might point out to him that in many of those countries they already HAVE oppressive and corrupt security forces that make the abject poverty even more bitter and cruel? Even a life on the run in the US is miles ahead of many parts of the globe. The very notion that we could make life here bad enough that all these immigrants would go home is crazy-cuckoo.

    As someone whose family has been in this country far longer than Mitt's, I have to think that perhaps the time for us to restrict immigration from Mexico was before his Dad got here.

  • Rick Massimo on January 24, 2012 5:14 PM:

    But this is the GOP solution to everything: Make life miserable enough for everyone who isn't rich, and they'll just - um, go away somehow. Then everyone will be rich!

  • jon on January 24, 2012 8:08 PM:

    I hope Romney doesn't self-deport himself to Mexico, as they don't need our sort of income disparity to add to their problems.

  • For Sovereignty & Rule-of-law on January 25, 2012 5:47 AM:

    "Yet another point for Team Obama to amplify and hammer Willard with, dolled out by Romney himself no less."

    Have you ever seen an opinion poll in which "attrition through enforcement" is a choice? It polls VERY well. Romney can sell this philosphy of enforcement as a middle ground between the extremes of mass legalization and mass deportation. Romney can play the centrist vs. the sitting president who sued states who wanted immigration law enforced. Romney can contrast his plan (freeing jobs for Americans) vs. Obama's Morton Memo directive which provides work permits for illegal aliens whose cases are suspended in the enforcement system. Obama last year:
    "Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own," Obama told members of a National Council of La Raza conference who shouted back, "Yes, you can! Yes, you can!"

    "That's not how our democracy functions," Obama responded. "That's not how our Constitution is written."

    He said:

    "Well, the truth of the matter is that we have exercised as much administrative discretion as we can."

    AFTER these statements he started taking administrative actions to limit enforcement of the law. Romney can ask him "So were you lying to La Raza or did you go ahead and improperly bypass Congress and violate the Constitution? You said there was nothing else you could legally do but then you went and did more."