The Romney Difference On Immigration

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 18 2012 3:32 PM

The Romney Difference On Immigration

Karl Smith wants to know what, specifically, "are the significant differences that you think we could actually see come to pass from a Romney Presidency versus an Obama Presidency."

This is obviously a larger question than a blog post can answer and I anticipate revisiting the subject multiple times. To be vague about it, the future is difficult to predict because congress matters a lot. A re-elected Obama administration will try very hard to implement the Affordable Care Act, but a Romney administration will find it can't just wave a magic wand and make it vanish. What occurs at that point hinges to a great extent on congressional elections and the vagaries of intra-caucus dynamics. My basic view, however, is that the Party of Romney is essentially identifical to the Party of George W Bush despite some changes in rhetorical emphasis in response to events. One noteworthy issue where this is not the case, however, is immigration. Immigration is one of the relatively rare issues on which there are major policy divides (as opposed to stylistic or tactical ones) within the Republican coalition (similar to trade or K-12 education for Democrats). Ronald Reagan, George W Bush, and John McCain all hailed from the pro-immigration faction, even as it's become increasingly clear over time that it's a minority of the overall party. Romney, in both the 2008 and 2012 primaries has run more-restrictionist-than-thou attacks against McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry. Things sometimes happen on the campaign trail only to be forgotten later, but given that Romney's positioning on this is longstanding, in line with the views of party activists, and in line with the views of most congressional Republicans I think we should assume that a Romney administration would represent a real decisive turn of the Republican Party toward this view.


I'm not sure what the full implications of that are, but the president has considerable discretion over the precise allocation of federal law enforcement agencies' time and energy so it could be a pretty big deal. The Obama administration's desire to set a deportations record to prove a political point had a big impact on people's lives before they pivoted back to a more humane posture, and an administration sincerely dedicated to hounding as many unauthorized migrants out of the country or into jail as possible should be able to do a lot.

This would be pretty terrible economic policy in my view, but many voters seem to see immigration as a big drag on the economy so a big crackdown would be welcomed in many quarters as part of a healthy recovery policy.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.