Foes of illegal immigration are joining the presidential campaign of former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, despite a Boston Globe report that he hired a landscaping firm that allegedly employed illegal workers.
"A person of goodwill can make an inadvertent mistake," Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., told ABC News. "I certainly would not hold that against him."
On Dec. 1, the Boston Globe reported that for a decade, Romney used the landscaping company Community Lawn Service Company with a Heart, which allegedly "relies heavily on illegal workers" to maintain the lawn at his pink colonial home in Belmont, Mass.
Romney responded to the story by telling the Globe through a spokesman that he knows nothing about the immigration status of the landscaping workers employed by the landscaping firm, adding that his dealings were with the firm's head, Ricardo Saenz, a legal immigrant from Colombia.
The Democratic National Committee seized on the Globe report last year to paint Romney as a hypocrite.
"Even as Romney travels the country, vowing to curb the flood of low-skilled illegal immigrants into the United States," read the D.N.C.'s missive to reporters, "some of those workers maintain his own yard, cutting grass, pruning shrubs and mulching trees."
But two-and-a-half months after the story appeared, it does not appear to have slowed Romney from making inroads in the House GOP conference where anti-immigration passions run high.
At present, Romney counts 23 House Republicans in his camp-- eight more House Republicans than Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and 18 more than former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Romney has also won the silence of Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., the anti-illegal immigrant firebrand who is pursuing a long-shot presidential campaign.
Romney has appealed to illegal immigration foes by vowing to implement a tamper-proof employment verification system while securing U.S. borders and increasing the number of high-skilled immigrants admitted into the United States.
In recent days, he has stepped up his appeal to anti-illegal immigration hard-liners by indicating that he is open to ending the long-standing practice of granting citizenship to children born in the United States to illegal immigrants.
"It's something which I'm looking at," Romney recently told reporters in Baltimore after courting a group of House conservatives. "I think it's an important and valid topic."
Romney has not committed himself to announcing a position on birthright citizenship. He has said, however, that if he does, he wants to know whether ending birthright citizenship could be done through statute or whether it would require a change to the Constitution. He has also said that he wants to know what the consequences would be for the country.
Excepting the cases of children born in the United States to enemy aliens in wartime and children of foreign diplomats, all babies born in the United States have American citizenship under the Supreme Court's current interpretation of the 14th Amendment. The amendment says: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
One leading conservative scholar thinks there is a "better than plausible argument" that Congress has authority under Sec. 5 of the 14th Amendment to end birthright citizenship through legislation.