BY DECLARING that “self-deportation” is the solution to illegal immigration, Mitt Romney gave voice to an idea in wide currency among Republicans — that America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants would simply go home if government made their lives miserable enough. But even by the debased standards of primary-season rhetoric, the idea is as simple-minded and absurd as it is popular — as Mr. Romney’s rival, Newt Gingrich, quickly pointed out.
“Self-deportation” is snappy and sound-biteable; hence its superficial appeal. Slap together a water-tight employment verification law, issue IDs to legal workers, add some harassment from state and local authorities, and watch the unpapered immigrants stream south over the border whence they came. If they want to return to the United States, said Mr. Romney, they can get to the “back of the line.”
The idea’s inanity is masked by its allure for some who hate illegal immigration but concede that mass roundups and deportations would be unseemly and prohibitively expensive. Better, they say, that illegal immigrants leave under their own steam — and pay their travel expenses, too.