Massachusetts lame (duck) governor Mitt Romney has announced a new policy
that will authorize state police to arrest illegal immigrants. But only after they’ve finished cutting his lawn.
It was revealed last week that a local landscaping firm that Romney used for about 8 years to manicure the lawn at his Belmont home hired illegal immigrants
as laborers. Romney never bothered to ask the company’s owner about the status of the Spanish-speaking workers, though he did occasionally greet them with a cheerful “Buenos dias!” The Boston Globe
tracked down four of the company’s workers, all of whom worked on Romney’s property. The workers said they were paid in cash at $9 to $10 an hour and sometimes worked 11-hour days, typical of America’s vibrant underground cash-economy of which illegal immigrants are the lifeblood. Although the Globe
was able to confirm that three of the four were in the United States illegally, Ricardo Saenz, the owner of the Chelsea-based company, Community Lawn Service with a Heart, maintains that all of his workers are legal.
When asked by reporters if he screened his workers to verify their status, Saenz said he had never requested any proof from his employees to show they are here legally: “I don’t need to tell them to show me documents,” he explained. “I know who they are, and they are legal.” Community Lawn Service also provides landscaping for a Massachusetts Port Authority property in Revere and public school grounds in Chelsea.
Romney was hosting the Republican Governors Association conference in Miami last Thursday when he was asked by a reporter about his use of Community Lawn Service with a Heart. He uttered, “Aw, geez,” and then walked away. He later claimed to have been unaware that the workers were in the United States illegally.
During the summer, a state trooper posted outside Romney’s home is reported to have asked to see the papers of one of the workers he suspected of being illegal, but Saenz explained that he’d left the worker’s papers at the office. The trooper never inquired again, but Romney’s new policy would have allowed the trooper to arrest the worker on the spot for a suspected immigration violation.
Personally, I was not at all surprised to learn that Romney has been hiring illegals on the cheap while simultaneously grandstanding about the need for stricter border controls. This is classic American conservatism at its cruelest: Exploit the labor of the poor and desperate while depriving them of the rights and protections afforded citizens.
I have no doubt whatsoever that there are hundreds of thousands of Romneys who rant and rave about the need to curb the flow of dark-skinned illegals into the United States while their houses are being painted, their lawns are being cut, and their children are being cared for by those same illegals who work longer hours for lower wages. That has always been the irony of the immigration issue. Moreover, this is a type of hypocrisy
with which the conservative Right is very familiar: Condemn publicly what you engage in privately.
The new agreement spearheaded by Romney between Massachusetts and federal immigration officials authorizes state troopers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants after an encounter as routine as a traffic stop. Governor-elect Deval Patrick has vowed to review
the policy carefully. In the meantime, Mitt, you got some splainin’ to do…