Romney’s ‘Self-Deportation’ Plans Already in Place in Arizona, Alabama

They've driven immigrants from those states, but at a steep political and economic cost

By Jorge Rivas Jan 24, 2012

At Monday night’s Republican presidential debate in Florida, Mitt Romney said his plan for reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S was "self-deportation."

"The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here," Romney said. "And so we’re not going to round people up."

Some members of the audience at the debate laughed when Romney explained his deportation plan but’s immigration blogger Julianne Hing says the former Massachusetts Governor’s plans are nothing new.

"It’s at the heart of Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56, as well as dozens of local anti-immigrant ordinances that have popped up through the years," Hing says.

"The concept of ‘self-deportation,’ which is what the right-wing calls ‘attrition through enforcement,’ is a strategy for dealing with the country’s undocumented immigrant population that says: let’s make life as difficult as possible for immigrants so they’re forced to leave. Let’s make looking for work, working, driving a car, renting a house a crime for undocumented immigrants, and then they’ll leave on their own," Hing explained.

"The thing is immediately after Arizona and Alabama’s laws passed, there were reports that undocumented immigrants did leave in droves. In a sense, it works. But the exodus, in Alabama in particular, hurt the state’s agriculture business, and the boycott of Arizona deeply damaged the state’s reputation," Hing said.

"The strategy comes at a deep political and economic cost."