In his interview with CBS over the weekend, Mitt Romney joined the chorus of GOP critics arguing that President Obama played politics with his immigration announcement on Friday.
Romney: I think the timing is pretty clear, if he really wanted to make a solution that dealt with these kids or with illegal immigration in America, than this is something he would have taken up in his first three and a half years, not in his last few months.
Schieffer: So he did it for politics.
Romney: Well, that's certainly a big part of the equation.
But when it comes to immigration, perhaps no presidential candidate has politicized the issue more than Romney has over the past five years -- during his 2007-2008 bid and during his current one.
Indeed, the issue was a clear way for the former Massachusetts governor to prove his conservative credentials. And it was a weapon he used -- often with success -- against John McCain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich, all of whom had supported some liberal policies toward illegal immigrants.
For instance, before the New Hampshire primary in Jan. 2008, Romney's campaign blasted McCain on immigration. "McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently -- even voted to allow illegals to collect Social Security," went one Romney TV ad. "And Mitt Romney?... He opposes amnesty for illegals."
Here's another Romney ad, which aired in Nov. 2007 and which used Romney's own words: "We all know Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have it wrong on illegal immigration. Our party should not make that mistake. As governor, I authorized the state police to enforce immigration laws. I opposed driver's licenses and in-state tuition for illegal aliens."
Romney added in the ad, "As president, I'll oppose amnesty, cut funding for sanctuary cities and secure our borders. Legal immigration is great, but illegal immigration -- that's got to stop."
And during this cycle's GOP presidential primary, Romney hammered Perry on the fact that young illegal immigrants in Texas qualify for in-state college tuition rates.
"With regards to illegal immigration, of course we build a fence. And of course we do not give instate tuition credits to people who come here illegally," Romney said at a Sept. 12, 2011 debate in Florida. "That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America's great beneficence."
At a following debate, Romney stated, "I've got be honest with you, I don't see how it is that a state like Texas -- to go to the University of Texas, if you're an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? That's $22,000 a year."
More from Romney: "That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense."
And after Gingrich began to see his poll numbers climb in the fall of 2011, Romney knocked Gingrich's call to give illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for years a chance to gain residency status.
"To say that we're going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you're all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing," Romney said at a Nov. 2011 debate.
"People respond to incentives. And if you can become a permanent resident of the United States by coming here illegally, you'll do so. What I want to do is bring people into this country legally, particularly those that have education and skill that allows us to compete globally."