Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Condoleezza Rice’s remarks show immigration drift from Mitt

July 13, 2012 by Scott Bomboy


Condoleezza Rice’s recent speeches have wowed Republican audiences and made her a hot vice presidential contender, but her public remarks on immigration don't exactly match Mitt Romney’s hardline stance on the issue.

Rice has been picking up momentum, at least among Washington insiders and some media types, as a possible game-changing running mate for Romney as vice president.

Late on Thursday, Internet maven Matt Drudge broke the news that Rice may be Romney's choice as a running mate.

But when it comes to immigration, Rice may fall between Marco Rubio and Romney on the issue, and some of her viewpoints stray from Romney's tough stance on immigration.

Rubio is the rising senator from Florida who was the speculated front runner for the vice presidential slot, until Rubio endorsed some immigration policies in June that differed from more conventional Republican reforms.

So Rubio wasn’t at Romney’s big two-day event for donors in Utah last month, where Rice walked away from the scene, grabbing headlines for her impassioned lunchtime speech.

The Huffington Post obtained audio of a similar speech Rice gave recently in Atlanta, and the former secretary of state’s view on immigration is clear:  She’s pro-immigrant but also pro-reform.

But when it comes to reform, her opinions veer closer to the George W. Bush version of immigration reform, which was derided by many Republicans in 2007.

“You can come from humble circumstances, you can do great things. … It doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you're going,” Rice said in a speech to a group of human resources professionals.

“I do not know when immigrants became the enemy,” Rice says at one point, until her remarks are drowned out by applause.

“Of course it is not just those who come here, but those who are here who happen to believe also that it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you are going,” she added.

It’s important to note that crowd erupted in cheers when Rice mentioned immigration reform, a message that Romney has also echoed.

Equally important, Rice was able to equate the immigrant experience to her own childhood in Alabama, where she lived with segregation as a child, speaking in the third person.

“And yet even though she couldn't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, her parents had her convinced she could be the president of the United States if she wanted to be and she became the secretary of state,” Rice says.

But what did Rice really mean when she spoke about immigration reform?

She also gave a speech in April in North Carolina that used some of the same language about immigration, but it lamented the failure of President George W. Bush’s attempts at immigration reform.

“That immigrant culture that has renewed us … has been at the core of our strength,” she said at Duke. “I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.”

The Raleigh News & Observer said Rice remarked in April that one of her biggest regrets was the Bush administration’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007.

At Stanford in 2009, Rice also lamented the legislative failure of the Bush plan.

“One of my biggest regrets was that we were not able to get comprehensive immigration reform,” Rice said in a 2009 speech at Stanford that is available on YouTube. “This country needs comprehensive immigration reform. I don’t care whether it is the person who will crawl across the desert to make five dollars when they are only making 50 cents, or Sergey Brin, who comes here from Russia and founds Google. At both ends of the spectrum, America has always been able to attract the most ambitious people.”

“If we even lose that, and start to believe somehow that it is instead a threat to us, to have those people come here,  we are going to lose one of the strongest elements of not just our national wealth, but  of our national soul.”

President Bush’s plan tied border security and workplace enforcement measures to legalizing 12 million illegal immigrants and creating a temporary worker program.

Senator Barack Obama voted in favor of the Bush plan, but a mix of Republicans and Democrats defeated it in the Senate. It was seen by many conservative Republicans as a form of amnesty--the same description used to describe President Obama's recent executive order.

Romney has battled immigration as a campaign issue since President Obama used that executive order to allow some illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, and since the Supreme Court overturned key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law.

Both Romney and Rice criticized the Supreme Court decision on immigration, and said the current administration’s long-term immigration strategy is lacking.

Democrats have criticized Romney’s position on strict state control over immigration border policy.

Related Constitution Daily Stories

Constitution Check: Does failure to strike down a law mean it has been upheld? Portman seems to lead in vice presidential sweepstakes Famous Americans killed, involved in duels Burr vs. Hamilton: Behind the ultimate political feud

Sign up for our email newsletter