For Romney, a double fault on illegal immigrants

Romney claims he warned his landscaping company about not hiring illegals; its owner says he didn't.

By Tim Grieve

Published December 5, 2007 3:19PM (EST)

At least week's GOP presidential debate, Mitt Romney fended off Rudy Giuliani's charge that he'd had illegal aliens working at his home by saying that it's "really kind of offensive, actually, to suggest [that] if you are a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home" and "you hear someone with a funny accent, you, as a homeowner, are supposed to go out there and say, 'I want to see your papers.'"

The Boston Globe apparently didn't think so.

The morning after the debate, the Globe dispatched reporters to Romney's home. What they found there: At least two illegal immigrants "raking leaves, clearing debris from Romney's tennis court, and loading the refuse onto the truck." One of the men told the Globe that he'd paid $7,000 to be smuggled into the United States through the desert in Arizona; a second said he was in the country on a student visa that had expired.

In a statement, Romney said that he confronted the company that employs the men in 2006, after an earlier Globe story reported that illegal immigrants were working at the Romney home. "I gave the company a second chance with very specific conditions," Romney said in the statement. "They were instructed to make sure people working for the company were of legal status."

The word from the company's owner: It didn't happen that way. Ricardo Saenz tells the Globe that Romney took no action at all when the paper first reported on the illegal immigrant problem last year -- and that he shouldn't have. Tracking the argument Romney made at last week's debate, Saenz said: "I don't understand why they have to verify anything. Their job is not to check up on my company."

Romney has now fired the company -- news Saenz apparently got right after he declared the former Massachusetts governor a "whole man" whom he finds "morally and spiritually" to be "the one who can lead this country."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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