BOSTON—While border states like California and Arizona struggle to combat illegal immigration, Massachusetts should encourage more legal foreigners to settle here by providing them with the tools to live successfully, Gov. Mitt Romney said yesterday.
At a press conference to introduce Pierre Imbert as the new director of the state Office of Refugees and Immigrants, Romney said Massachusetts does not have the same problems with illegal immigration that other states face. The challenge for Massachusetts is educating and training legal newcomers so they can contribute to the well being of the state, he said.
“I’d like to see more legal immigrants come to Massachusetts, not less,” Romney said. “In terms of illegal immigration, I think it’s relative to some other states. It’s not a major problem of the same scale in our state. Our focus is instead on encouraging, in every way possible, legal immigration, refugees coming here, and supporting those people to become integrated in our society so that we can learn from them and they can become a vibrant part of our economy and of our society.”
Massachusetts has experienced a surge in immigrants over the last 15 years. Today, one out of every seven Bay State residents is from a foreign country, according to a June report from the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth. In 2004, immigrants accounted for 17 percent of the state’s labor force and, according to the report, are the principal source of new labor in Massachusetts.
Some areas of immigration policy have become a controversial issue for state leaders as of late. Lawmakers have criticized Romney for opposing legislation that would allow children of illegal immigrants to attend a state college at lower in-state tuition rates. Romney opposes the bill because he says it rewards immigrants for coming here illegally.