Ciaran Staunton, speaking at the U.S.-Ireland Forum, Affinia Hotel in New York. 'If Romney got his way, it would see the end of the Irish community in America.'
The Queens businessman who brought presidential candidate Mitt Romney to task in front of an international audience over the Irish undocumented in New Hampshire last week said Romney wants to see the end of the Irish in America.
Speaking to The Irish Emigrant, Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform Vice-Chairman Ciaran Staunton, 44, said Romney's policies on the undocumented, if he made it to the White House, would spell disaster for Irish people across America.
"If Romney got his way, it would see the end of the Irish community in America," he said. "His policies prove he's living in the past and all forms of anti-immigration bigotry should be faced down. The Irish community stopped him in New Hampshire. The tide has turned on this because people stood up and said ‘enough.’ He's winding down his budget in New Hampshire now and focusing on other areas."
A week of media frenzy followed the New Hampshire showdown at the Romney “Ask Mitt Anything” showcase, which took place during the run-up to Tuesday's primary, where Mayo-born Staunton held a placard reading “No Irish Need Apply” as he sat in the front row of the audience.
However, the Romney camp was unapologetic for its stance and when asked how he felt the maelstrom of negative media attention would impact on his performance with the Irish voters. In a written statement provided by Romney’s campaign, the former governor explained the justification for his position.
“I strongly oppose an amnesty program that would automatically grant citizenship to the illegal immigrants already in this country,” Romney said in the statement.
The heated debate, which saw Staunton ask Romney “Have you no shame?” highlighted the undocumented issue to an international audience, with Staunton saying that of the 50,000 to 60,000 undocumented Irish in the country, “many of them are mothers and fathers of American children. Just remember that they're human beings,” he said.
Romney has taken a strong stance against comprehensive immigration reform during his campaign, said “illegal immigration presents numerous challenges for our communities. I believe it's important to end illegal immigration so we can maintain and encourage legal immigration.”
Romney added “securing our borders is the first means of addressing the problem of illegal immigration in our country. Next, we must create an employment verification system that is enforceable and tamper-proof, to ensure that we're only giving jobs to those who are here legally, and penalize employers who hire those without proper identification.
Romney has said the government should not provide any special privilege or pathway to citizenship for those here illegally.
"As governor of Massachusetts, I took action to address illegal immigration,” Romney said. “I stopped measures that would have provided driver's licenses and in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. I also took steps to deputize Massachusetts State Troopers to question, detain and arrest illegal immigrants. As president, I will enforce existing federal immigration laws and cut back funding to 'sanctuary cities' that encourage illegal immigration.”
Despite the negative backlash against Romney on the undocumented Irish issue, he said he is running for president “because I fervently believe that I have the experience and vision to address the issues facing our country.”
If elected, Romney aims to secure points of entry throughout the country, implement a “mandatory and enforceable employment verification system,” issue a biometrically-enabled and tamper-proof card to non-citizens and create a national database so employers can easily verify the legal status of non-citizens in this country.
Employers who employ the undocumented would be made “accountable” with stiffer fines and penalties, there would be no amnesty or "any special path to citizenship for those here illegally" and cities that are so-called "sanctuaries" for the undocumented would have federal funding cut back.
Romney's plans to eradicate the undocumented from America include opposing any special benefits for them, including opposing giving driver's licenses or in-state tuition to those here illegally. As president, he has pledged to cut back federal funding to states that do so and to end the policy of chain migration that allows the family of a child born here to live here.
By contrast, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and her ex-president husband agree with Republican Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz., Immigration Bill to bring about progressive immigration reform.
Speaking last Saturday in New Hampshire, Bill Clinton said, “I think the humane thing to do here is to give the people that are here and are working and have no law problems, except that they're not here legally, a chance to work their way into legal citizenship. You know, the vast majority of these people are completely law abiding, and they pay taxes, even, but they're not here lawfully. I talk to people, you know, and I try to figure out what's going on. I think that is the fairer system. It’s also consistent with the bill that Sen. McCain supported in the Senate.
“I think it's the right thing to do, and so does Hillary.”