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Romney under fire for giving undocumented immigrants subsidized health care

Published: Monday, Oct. 24 2011 3:06 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2011, file photo Republican presidential candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, talk during a Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas.

Associated Press

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A health care law signed by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts in 2006 allows undocumented immigrants to get publicly subsidized medical care, according to an article published in the Los Angeles Times Monday.

Under the Health Safety Net program, uninsured, poor immigrants can get virtually free health care from any clinic or hospital in the state — regardless of legal status. The program cost Massachusetts more than $400 million last year, the LA Times reported. The state didn't track how much of that was spent serving undocumented immigrants.

The article could cause trouble for Romney, who has been attacking GOP rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry for granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, USA Today's Catalin Camia predicted. Romney has called the in-state tuition program a "magnet" for illegal immigration.

Romney's GOP presidential campaign was quick to respond, pushing the blame on his successor, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, CNN reported.

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

The Perry campaign answered with a statement accusing Romney of trying to "deny indisputable facts."

"The truth is Gov. Romney's plan intended to provide free health care to illegal immigrants, and the law and rules he approved were clear about providing free health care to illegal immigrants," Perry national press secretary Mark Miner said in a statement.

During last week's Republican debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry also attacked Romney for allegedly employing illegal immigrants as gardeners, The Fiscal Times reported.

"The idea that you can stand here and say you are tough on immigration is the height of hypocrisy," Perry said.

At first, Romney denied it.

"I don't think I hired an illegal immigrant in my life," he said.

But eventually, he admitted he hired a contractor to mow his lawn, and that contractor — without his knowledge — employed illegal immigrants. He fired the gardeners after he found out about their immigration status, he said.

"We went to the company and we said, look, you can't have any illegals working on our property," he said. "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals."

The Romney campaign defended Romney's record on immigration, CNN reported.

"Mitt Romney's record on illegal immigration is clear: as governor, he vetoed an in-state tuition bill for illegal immigrants and authorized his state troopers to detain people based on their immigration status," Saul said. "On the other hand, liberal Gov. Patrick has the same position on illegal immigration as Rick Perry — he favors in-state tuition and reversed an executive order to detain illegal immigrants — and neither can be trusted to deal with such an important issue."

EMAIL: estuart@desnews.com

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