On October 23, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about the Massachusetts healthcare law passed by then-Governor Mitt Romney in 2006, stating that its provisions to provide care to some illegal immigrants might be used against Romney in the Republican primary contest. One day later, the campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry used the Times article to launch such an offensive, issuing a press release about the news feature.
The L.A. Times piece focused on a program called the Health Safety Net, which allows uninsured illegal immigrants to receive care at Massachusetts clinics and emergency rooms. It funded 1.1 million visits in 2010, though it’s uncertain how many undocumented immigrants took advantage of the program.
Speaking to the Times, Tim Murphy, the state health and human services secretary during Romney’s administration, said the specific regulations governing the Health Safety Net were instituted by Romney’s successor, Deval Patrick.
In its press release, the Perry campaign lambasted this response, contending the Romney campaign “tried to deny indisputable facts and to cover their tracks by blaming Gov. Patrick.”
The Perry press release quoted the healthcare act as stating, “a Hospital or Community Health Care Center shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, citizenship.”
After weeks of being attacked for a policy he enacted allowing certain illegal immigrants in Texas to pay in-state college tuition, Perry went after Romney on immigration at a recent debate in Las Vegas. Perry called Romney a “hypocrite” on immigration, saying the Bay State governor had hired illegal immigrants to work on his yard.
Immigration reform is likely to be a key issue motivating the 100,000 Latino voters in the swing state of Nevada, and the state GOP chair, Amy Tarkanian, told the Las Vegas CBS affiliate that getting the Latino vote is a “must” in the general election. A recent article on the Atlantic’s website surmised that the battle between Romney and Perry over who is more hard-line on immigration reform could be alienating Latinos.