In one of several heated exchanges during Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, Texas Gov. Rick Perry revisited a claim that was made against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during the 2008 presidential race: that Romney had hired illegal immigrants to work at his home.
The allegation starts with a 2006 Boston Globe report that illegal immigrants were part of a crew that would landscape the then-Massachusetts governor’s lawn. On Tuesday, Perry alleged that a year later, those illegal immigrants still were working on Romney’s property. Perry said this made Romney unfit to claim that he is strong opponent of illegal immigration.
The statement: “People who hire illegals ought to be penalized. And Mitt, you lose all of your standing from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home, and you knew about it for a year. … The newspaper came to you and brought it to your attention, and you still, a year later, had those individuals working for you.” – Texas Gov. Rick Perry
In the 2006 report, the Globe said three former or current employees of a landscaping company that worked on Romney’s Belmont property said they were in the United States illegally. For that report, Romney’s spokesman told the Globe that Romney knew nothing about the workers’ immigration status, and that Romney would look into the matter.
Ultimately, Romney didn’t deny that the workers were illegal, but he emphasized that the landscaping company – not Romney – hired the workers. He would go on to say that he gave the landscaping company another chance – letting it continue to work on his property with the understanding that it would ensure that its workers were legal.
In December 2007, the Globe reported that two more of the company’s employees – whom the paper had seen working on Romney’s property in November of that year – had told it that they were in the country without documents.
Romney fired the landscaping company in light of that report, saying that he learned the company still was employing illegal immigrants despite assurances otherwise. An official with his 2008 presidential campaign told CNN that the Globe had approached the campaign with “credible information” that the company continued to employ illegal workers.
“I am disappointed that our relationship must end on this note,” Romney wrote in a letter to the landscaping company that his campaign released that month. “But we simply cannot tolerate your inability to ensure that your employees are legally permitted to work in the United States.”
The verdict: Misleading. Romney, while stressing that he didn’t hire illegal immigrants directly, essentially conceded that some of the company’s workers were illegal immigrants in 2006 and 2007. But there is no evidence that the illegal workers identified by the Globe in 2006 were still working at Romney’s property in 2007.
CNN’s Jason Hanna and Amy Roberts contributed to this report.