A week after being assailed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for being soft on illegal immigration as mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani today unveiled the details of his plan to solve the United States' immigration problem. His campaign is aggressively pushing back on Romney's attack to paint their GOP rival as a hypocrite on this issue.
"We can end illegal immigration," Giuliani vowed to an audience of roughly 300 at a community center in Aiken, S.C., Tuesday morning. "I promise you, we can end illegal immigration."
Listed as one of his "12 commitments" to the American people, Giuliani promised to secure the borders and identify every noncitizen in the United States, noting the more than 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
"That's a lot of people to walk over your border without being identified," he said.
The two-term mayor proposed requiring the deportation of any illegal immigrant who commits a felony, building both a physical and a high-tech border fence, deploying a larger and better-trained border patrol, implementing a tamperproof identity card for all foreign workers and students with a single national database of noncitizens to track their status.
The core of Giuliani's policy will rely on the implementation of a system he calls BorderStat. The system would be modeled after New York City's CompStat program, which Giuliani's administration used to reduce crime by measuring which tactics are working effectively and which are not.
Illegal immigration is a hot-button issue among rank-and-file Republican voters, whose opposition to the bill supported by President Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., contributed to its ignominious defeat in the U.S. Senate and McCain's current struggles on the campaign trail.
When Candidates Attack
The unveiling of Giuliani's immigration policy comes just days after Romney said New York was "at the top of the list" of "sanctuary cities" in the Unites States and accused Giuliani of obstructing the nation's immigration laws while mayor.
A "sanctuary city" is a term of art for a municipality where city officials have decided not to deny city services such as hospitals or public schools to illegal immigrants, and absent other law enforcement concerns to not devote police resources to implementing federal immigration laws. Some cities officially declare themselves officially to be sanctuary cities, others – such as New York -- implement policies that afford them that designation.
During a Bettendorf, Iowa, campaign stop, Romney said that Giuliani "said this was going to be a city with protection, it would provide protection for illegals…He instructed city workers not to provide information to the federal government that would allow them to enforce the law. New York City was the poster child for sanctuary cities in the country and I think that's the wrong way to go."
"Frankly, that designation would not apply to New York City," responded Giuliani. "What you got to look at in fairness to is the overall results – and no city in terms of crime, safety, dealing with illegality of all different kinds has done a better job than New York City."
In 1996 while mayor, Giuliani sued the federal government for new provisions in federal immigration laws that would encourage government employees to turn in illegal immigrants seeking benefits from the city.
Giuliani said educating the children of illegal immigrants made sense. "The reality is that they are here, and they're going to remain here. The choice becomes for a city what do you do? Allow them to stay on the streets or allow them to be educated? The preferred choice from the point of view of New York City is to be educated."
Romney, who toured the U.S.-Mexico border Monday, is determined to make this a major issue he wields against Giuliani, who leads in national polls but is behind Romney in first-in-the-nation caucus state Iowa.
Sanctuary Cities Under Romney
But Giuliani's campaign said that Romney's aggressive charge on this issue is inconsistent with Romney's record. While governor of Massachusetts from 2003 until 2007, three cities in Romney's home state – Somerville, Cambridge, and Orleans -- either declared or reissued declarations stating that they are in essence sanctuary cities.
"Why should the American people believe Gov. Romney has the right kind of executive experience for America when he claims he was powerless to take action against the three sanctuary cities in Massachusetts who refused to enforce illegal immigration laws?" asked Jim Dyke, a senior Giuliani campaign strategist. "If there were 'statutes' or 'formulas' standing in Romney's way, then why didn't he take action to change them?"
But it isn't only his Republican opponents who question Romney's sincerity on this issue.
"Romney's being a hypocrite on this issue," said Joseph Curtatone, the Democratic mayor of Somerville since 2004. "I did not receive any mandate, any communication, anything at all from him about this. If it's so important to him why didn't he have the state police enforcing it?"
Curtatone, president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association, adds that his May 2006 declaration of Somerville as a "city of hope" committed to providing services to illegal immigrants was just official recognition of what exists everywhere in his state.
"I don't know of any community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- whether by official declaration or by their action -- who has not adopted the same policy," he said. I never heard Gov. Romney bring it up one way or another."
Romney aides talk about the governor's agreement with the federal government to allow Massachusetts state troopers to arrest and seek the deportation of illegal immigrants. What they don't emphasize, however, is the fact that that agreement was reached in the closing days of his term, in December 2006, and was immediately rescinded by his replacement, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. The 30 state troopers initially assigned to receive specialized training from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency never received their training.
"This is a pretty weak argument to make as part of their rebuttal," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told ABC News, "mainly because it serves to underscore the governor's posture about enforcement and the joint federal-state approach. …The governor's effort to deputize state troopers was part of his belief that enforcement requires a joint state-federal approach. That differs from Mayor Giuliani who has said it's the federal government's sole responsibility."
Other Romney critics questioning his commitment to this issue point out that, though Romney decried as "amnesty" the 2007 immigration reform measure that failed in the Senate, in 2005 and 2006, Romney voiced support for the more liberal versions of the bill. A Boston Globe investigation indicated that illegal immigrants from Guatemala did landscaping at Romney's mansion for a decade, with nary an inquiry from the governor about their immigration status. And according to the Pew Hispanic Center, Massachusetts' illegal immigrant population exploded during Romney's one gubernatorial term.
Beyond the squabble over this issue are two campaigns eager to use the issue to further the negative narratives that have emerged about each. Giuliani wants voters to see Romney as a flip-flopper who will do or say anything and renounce any past view -- whether on abortion, gay rights, or immigration policy -- to get elected. Romney wants voters to see Giuliani as a Manhattan liberal.
In addition to introducing a team of advisers on the issue, the Giuliani campaign provided to reporters old communications from the mayor going back a quarter century – calling the documentation "The Rudy Rewind" -- indicating his frustration with the federal government's inability to deal with the illegal immigration policy effectively.
In one November 1981 missive, for example, then-Associated Attorney General Giuliani wrote to Immigration and Naturalization Services district counsel Nina Rao Cameron, expressing frustration that "for too long those in positions of leadership in the [Justice] Department have ignored the immigration area – policy, law and budget. Reversing this lack of emphasis and tackling problems long neglected are necessary." (CLICK HERE TO SEE THAT LETTER)
In a transcript from a March 1995 press conference with then California Gov. Pete Wilson, Giuliani decried the INS's ineffectiveness when it came to deported illegal immigrants who had committed or stood accused of committing crimes. "So literally sitting at the INS is a pile maybe this big of names of people who have committed crimes and last year they got around to deporting seven to eight hundred of them. So before there are obligations placed on us to turn over the names of children in school or their parents or people who use public hospitals, I'd like to see the Immigration and Naturalization Service dealing with people who commit crimes."
But Giuliani does not and has never employed the rhetoric of, say, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who has made opposing "amnesty" a charge on the campaign trail.
A year after his press conference with Wilson, upset with the anti-immigrant tone from many Republicans – presumably including Wilson – Giuliani said in a speech (LINK) that "the anti-immigration movement now sweeping the country is no different than earlier anti-immigration movements that have surfaced periodically in American history. We need only look back at the 'Chinese Exclusionary Act' or especially at the 'Know-nothing' movement that swept America in the mid-19th century."
Giuliani quoted Abraham Lincoln, saying, "When the know-nothings get control, instead of reading 'All men are created equal,' the Declaration of Independence will read, 'All men are created equal, except Negroes, and foreigners and Catholics."
Giuliani these days emphasizes border control and casts immigration as a national security issue in light of Sept. 11.
"Real immigration reform must put security first because border security and homeland security are inseparable in the terrorists' war on us," Giuliani has said. "The first responsibility of the federal government is to protect our citizens by controlling America's borders, while ending illegal immigration and identifying every noncitizen in our nation."