You can tar and feather me for this if you like, but I really don’t care much about immigration. I know, I know–I really should. It’s important, we need skilled labor, folks are flouting our laws, etc. But the plain and simple truth is that I really don’t care a whole lot. Just can’t get revved up about it like, um, the rest of the country does. Which is why I suspect David has written much more about it than I have.
But I am interested in the current back-and-forth between Governor Romney and Mayor Giuliani on immigration–not because I really care about the topic at hand, but because the Giuliani camp’s response is illustrative.
Here’s the deal. When Rudy Giuliani was mayor, New York was a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants. Governor Romney pointed that out. The policy was apparently a holdover from previous Mayor Ed Koch, but as ABC News puts it, Mayor Giuliani made it his own:
But if Giuliani inherited the policy, he reissued it and seemed to embrace it.
At a June 1994 press conference, Giuliani decried anti-illegal immigration policies as unfair and hostile.
“Some of the hardest-working and most productive people in this city are undocumented aliens,” Giuliani said at the time. “If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you’re one of the people who we want in this city. You’re somebody that we want to protect, and we want you to get out from under what is often a life of being like a fugitive, which is really unfair.”
At a speech in Minneapolis in 1996, Giuliani defended Koch’s executive order, that, in his words “protects undocumented immigrants in New York City from being reported to the INS while they are using city services that are critical for their health and safety, and for the health and safety of the entire city.”
“There are times when undocumented immigrants must have a substantial degree of protection,” Giuliani said.
In response, Mayor Giuliani’s camp is oh-so-creatively claiming Governor Romney is a flip-flopper. Why? Because a bunch of left-wing Massachusetts towns are also “sanctuary cities”–big surprise–and they received state aid during Governor Romney’s term. It should be clear to any clear-minded observer that this is not a “Gotcha!” The man was a governor, not an absolute monarch–was he supposed to cut off state aid to any town that did something he didn’t like? One can wish, but that’s just not doable.
What’s more, instead of tilting at windmills, Governor Romney actually did substantive things about illegal immigration that were within his purview, including making a special agreement with the feds, vetoing in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, and opposing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.
But of course, the MSM is gleefully reporting the alleged flip-flop, because it fits into their preferred storyline–even though there is no real flip-flop. This isn’t the first time this has happened; for instance, the media likes to say that Governor Romney “formerly favored gay rights and now opposes gay marriage”–intimating, of course, that he used to be pro-”gay marriage.” In reality, he never was; instead, he has compiled the best record on marriage of any politician I can think of, and certainly any in the 2008 field. But this is how these things start–a factually-challenged smear gets repeated enough that it is accepted as fact. And as a result, too many people think that a man with an excellent record that he forged as a leader under fire on the most inhospitable terrain isn’t someone they can trust–and instead they’re considering turning to an unabashed pro-choicer who “flip-flopped” for real on partial-birth abortion. Not cool.