Mitt Romney Swears He Never Meant to Help Any Sick Illegals

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 18: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participates in the Republican presidential debate airing on CNN, October 18, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Seven GOP contenders are taking part in the debate, which is sponsored by the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas and held in the Venetian Hotel's Sands Expo and Convention Center. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Photo: Ethan Miller/2011 Getty Images

One of the biggest causes of Rick Perry's abrupt decline in the polls was all the attention he received for passing as governor a law that allows illegal immigrants access to the lower tuition fees that are offered to Texas's in-state students. It was an issue that was all too easy for his opponents to exploit. Mitt Romney went so far as to claim that Texas's tuition policy was a "magnet" for illegal immigrants, as if people are actually crossing over from Mexico to save money on courses at Texas A&M. In the last debate, Perry returned fire by pointing out Romney's own illegal-immigration skeletons: Years ago, he had hired a landscaping company which, like pretty much every landscaping company in the country, employed some illegal immigrants. Now the Los Angeles Times has provided Perry with even more fodder for the next debate.

The Massachusetts healthcare law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in 2006 includes a program known as the Health Safety Net, which allows undocumented immigrants to get needed medical care along with others who lack insurance.

Uninsured, poor immigrants can walk into a health clinic or hospital in the state and get publicly subsidized care at virtually no cost to them, regardless of their immigration status.

RomneyCare and being nice to illegal immigrants? Double rainbow, all the way across the sky!

But the Times story also notes that the details of Health Safety Net were crafted after Romney left office (although, as Ryan Lizza notes, by some of the people appointed by Romney), a point Romney has emphasized in his pushback efforts today:

The Romney campaign was quick to react to the article, and to criticize Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who succeeded Romney.

"Federal law requires emergency medical care for illegal immigrants. And if illegal immigrants are getting access to additional healthcare in Massachusetts, it's liberal Gov. Deval Patrick that has made it easier for them to do so. All of the regulatory activities involving the Health Safety Net Fund, including who could get care, were made long after Mitt Romney left office," said Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul.

She added*, "Trust us, if Mitt Romney had his way, those illegals would all die a slow, horrifying death."

*In our imagination.

Romney blames successor for illegal immigrant health care [Political Ticker/CNN]