In Tuesday’s debate/shouting match, things took a turn for the personal when Rick Perry accused Mitt Romney of personally employing illegal immigrants.
“You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property,” Perry said. “And the newspaper came to you and brought it to your attention, and you still, a year later, had those individuals working for you.”
So what was Perry referring to exactly?
Well, the story dates back to a pair of Boston Globe stories that came up back during Romney’s first presidential run. In 2006, the newspaper sent reporters all the way to Suchitepequez, Guatemala to interview locals who said they had done a landscaping job on Romney’s property while living in America illegally. The Massachusetts governor did not hire them personally, however: they did their work through a company, Community Lawn Service with a Heart, he had paid to handle his property. The owner, who met Romney through church, said the governor had never asked him about his workers’ legal status despite using his services for a decade.
Romney, who at the time was pushing for stricter anti-immigration laws, said he had no idea he had undocumented workers on his property and would cut ties with the company if it proved to be the case.
But the story came up again a year later in 2007 while Romney was running for president. Once again, Romney was pushing a hardline message, attacking rival Rudy Giuliani in debates for not cracking down on illegal immigration while mayor of New York City. But the Boston Globe found that Romney was still using the same landscaping company as before and that they still were employing illegal immigrants who worked on his property. Romney finally ditched the service.
“We went to the company and we said, look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property,” Romney recalled in Tuesday’s debate. “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.