Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney criticizes "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants — and by implication Republican rival Rudy Giuliani — in a new radio ad.
"Immigration laws don't work if they're ignored. That's the problem with cities like Newark, San Francisco and New York City that adopt sanctuary policies," an announcer says in the ad, which runs in New Hampshire and Iowa. "Sanctuary cities become magnets that encourage illegal immigration and undermine secure borders."
Romney and Giuliani have jabbed over illegal immigration in recent weeks. The former Massachusetts governor says Giuliani promoted New York as a haven for illegal immigrants when he was mayor. Giuliani aggressively denies it, insisting he cracked down on lawlessness of every kind.
"Legal immigration is great," Romney says in the new ad. "But illegal immigration, that we've got to end. And amnesty is not the way to do it."
In so-called sanctuary cities, government employees are not required to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities. Some, such as San Francisco, have declared themselves sanctuaries or refuges. Others, like New York, have never adopted the name.
New York's policy, begun by Democratic Mayor Ed Koch in 1988, is intended to make illegal immigrants feel that they can report crimes, send their children to school or seek medical treatment without fear of being reported. An estimated half-million illegal immigrants live in New York, and only a fraction are deported each year.
Romney has pledged to cut federal funds from cities that adopt what he calls sanctuary policies and ignore federal immigration laws. The ads also say that as governor Romney ordered state police to enforce existing immigration laws, opposed driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and insisted children be taught English.
Last week, Giuliani began running a radio ad that highlights his support for building a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. He says that as mayor he unsuccessfully tried to get federal help to deport illegal immigrants convicted of crimes. He also tells voters that as president he would require new immigrants to learn English, deport criminal suspects and enact tougher visa standards.
Campaigning Tuesday in Nevada, Romney dodged questions about his stance on the construction of a nuclear waste dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The state and most of its voters oppose the project at Yucca Mountain.
The former Massachusetts governor suggested that he might be sympathetic to their fight, but he fell short of taking a firm stance.
"I'm a federalist, I believe in the authority of states, and clearly Nevadans have a lot to say about this and other policies," Romney told reporters in Las Vegas.
"My position is I'm not going to do anything that puts the health or well-being of Nevadans at risk," he said. "It's something I'm going to look at further as the results of the study that's ongoing are provided."
Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that his identification with Nevada's large and politically active Mormon community might be a factor in his lead in the polls there.
"Well, you know, it's probably not been considered a plus for my campaign to be a member of my church, but I certainly hope it's going to be plus in Nevada," he said. "I don't know, I think most people vote based upon their political perspective of the issues of the day."
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