Activists Astounded: Romney Stole Our Idea

Activists Astounded: Romney Stole Our Idea

January 26, 2012

Megan Hanley,

Stranger than Fiction: Romney Steals “Self-Deport” Idea from Satirical Website
Activists furious at GOP Candidate, Exploring Legal Options

New York, NY -- Five months ago, in an effort to draw attention to the bigoted nature of the current debate around immigration in the United States, a group of activists got together to come up with the most outlandish approach imaginable to immigration issues: Self-deportation. The result-- launched last fall, cheerily reminding Americans unsure about the status of their immigrant forebearers that "Stopping Illegal Citizenship Starts with You."

During this past Monday night’s GOP debate, Mitt Romney stole the idea and passed it off as his own.

The “Repatriotas,” a group of artists and activists affiliated with the Yes Lab at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, were shocked when Romney suggested that “The answer [to the immigration issue] is self-deportation.” The group built as a satirical response to stepped-up deportations and an uptick of extreme anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 in Arizona, HB 56 in Alabama, and the Secure Communities program, which deny basic rights to undocumented people and their families. And increasingly harsh and punitive responses to immigration are not just a partisan or GOP problem. Under the Obama administration a record 369,000 people were deported in 2011 alone-- far exceeding deportation rates under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush.

“The ‘go-back-home’ rhetoric is so over-the-top that we thought parody was the only sane response," said Marlène Ramírez-Cancio, a Repatriota and a member of the Latina video and satire collective Fulana. "We don't know how Romney first happened upon our website, but given the murky nature of his own family's legal status in the U.S., maybe he was just exploring his options," she says, referring to recent allegations that in the early twentieth century Romney's own family may have crossed the Mexico / US border without first securing the appropriate papers.

“The difference between Mitt Romney’s version of self-deportation and ours is he imagines a country where immigration issues can be solved by making immigrants’ lives so miserable, they’ll give up and leave. We want everyone who lives in this country to enjoy equal opportunity and rights,” said Cristel M. Jusino Díaz, a member of the group.

The Repatriotas work to draw attention to the challenges faced by undocumented youth in the U.S. They support federal and state legislation that would enable undocumented students to achieve their dreams of pursuing higher education and civic service.

The Repatriotas  view “repatriation” as a logical extension of the “anchor baby” debates, or far-right proposals to modify the 14th Amendment with the intention of deny birthright citizenship for children of undocumented people.  The site questions why descendants of European immigrants --many of whom also arrived and lived in the United States without proper documentation-- feel their own immigrant past is "different." The creators of hope to spark a conversation about the idea of "The Real America" and who belongs in it.

The Repatriotas have contacted Romney’s campaign headquarters for comment. To date the campaign has not responded -- nor properly attributed the “Self-Deportation” idea to its authors.