Romney: Illegal Immigrants Should Have to Leave

December 16, 2011 - 12:01 AM

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney says he's all for immigration, as long as it's legal and U.S. policies don't reward those who are already here.

On Thursday night, Romney and his rivals discussed illegal immigration at the GOP debate. Romney says workers who have come to the U.S. illegally would have to leave the country but would be eligible to apply to return as long as they went to the back of the line.

"We need an ID card for people who come here legally.  People can show that card to EVerify or another system.  Let Mastercard or VISA process that and determine it is valid or not. If the employer hires that person, they would have sanctions if that person is not legal. 

"Ultimately illegal people need to get in line behind everyone else," Romney continued. "I want legal people to come who follow rules not line jumpers."

Newt Gingrich said the nation has to be realistic in confronting the millions of workers without documentation. But Gingrich also said he would cut off funding for so-called sanctuary cities and would drop federal lawsuits against states with tough anti-immigration laws.

"People who are here for 20 years are a separate matter," Gingrich said. "On Day One I would drop all lawsuits against states who are trying to enforce immigration policy. I would defund all federal aid to sanctuary cities.  I would take away the incentives for breaking the law."

Jon Huntsman suggested that illegal immigration is no longer a problem: "In terms of immigration, no one is coming anymore because there are no jobs and no opportunities," he said.

"Let’s not lose sight of the fact that legal immigration is an engine of growth.  Half of Fortune 400 companies have been founded by immigrants. We need to remake the way people move back and forth. This is an economic development opportunity."