Romney May Still Be The Frontrunner, But Debate Revealed Vulnerability On Immigration
August 14, 2011, 06:30 AM
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Michele Bachmann has won the Iowa straw poll, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that Mitt Romney is still the front runner.

I’ve been thinking about his performance in Thursday’s debate. He was asked:


With the unemployment rate at 9.1%, do you still think we need to import more foreign labor?

 
Despite Romney’s record of support for continued high levels of immigration, he offered a decent answer.


Of course not. We’re not looking to bring more people into jobs than can be done by Americans

 But of course he didn’t propose doing anything about it—like, for example, a moratorium—and in fact rushed on to make a damaging assertion, obviously aimed at his Big Business donors:

We want to make sure that America is home to the best and the brightest in the world. If someone comes here and gets a Ph.D. in physics, that’s someone that I would like to staple a greencard to their diploma rather than to say to them to go home. Instead, we let people come across our border illegally or overstay their visas. They get to stay in the country. I want the best and brightest to be metered into the country based upon the needs of our employment sector…

For legal immigration to work, we have to secure the border and we also have to crack down on employers who knowingly hire people who are here illegally. I like legal immigration. I’d have the number of visas that we give to people that come here legally determined in part by the economy.

Romney has a history of talking tough on immigration—but his record really says otherwise.

The thing is: he’s now seriously disconnecting with the reality of US Ph.D. holders who are competing in an area where there are unlimited student visas for foreign students. Romney got rich in such a system—by personally avoiding the science and technology professions.

None of Romney’s five sons are in technology professions or have served in the military.

Ben Romney is studying to become a doctor—which is possibly the most protected profession involving science in the United States since the slots in US medical schools are limited compared to the demand for physicians and US medical school graduates get preference for US residencies. (A substantial number of practicing physicians in the US are either US citizens who study abroad or foreigners that pass US licensing exams, but they are generally relegated to the least desirable positions).

All of Romney’s other sons are a business position where factors like their father’s social connections have major leverage. Three attended Harvard Business School, which specifically gives admission preferences to children of alumni. All likewise are set up to profit from loose immigration policies—and policies like H-1b.

I suspect the only real exposure Mitt Romney may have to the broader community of US scientist and technologists may be through his activities in the Church of the Latter Day Saints. But the thing is: the LDS is notoriously clannish and prone to behaviors that many outsiders regard as nepotism. The experiences of LDS engineers and technologist aren’t necessarily typical of the general population of US scientists and engineers.

The ratio of Mormon Senators’ Americans for Better Immigration grades to that of Mormon House members is the second-lowest of any major denomination—only Episcopalians are lower. I have argued that, because Senate races are so expensive, they tend to reflect the interest of the wealthy. Thus the Mormon ABI ratio suggests wealthy and political powerful Mormons are seriously out of touch with their base, stretching their lust for cheap labor and high profits further than almost any other class of leaders.

And Romney is playing true to type.