In his first extended comments to the Bay State political press in nearly three weeks, Governor Mitt Romney said yesterday that the discovery that unauthorized immigrants had landscaped his Belmont lawn had not changed his view of immigration policy.
"We need an employment verification system in this country, so that employers, legal employers, are able to determine whether the person they're hiring is a legal worker in this country," Romney said. "We don't have such a system, and I've been proposing for some time that we implement such a system."
The Globe reported last month that the landscaping service caring for Romney's lawn employed several immigrants who were in the country illegally to manicure the former venture capitalist's home in Belmont.
Romney said yesterday that his family had checked the employer's immigration status and found him legal, but that he did not inquire about the workers' papers. "It would in some respects be profiling and discriminatory for me to go around and ask employees to show me their papers," he said.
Last week, Romney finalized an agreement allowing small numbers of state troopers to arrest illegal immigrants in the course of routine law enforcement activities, a policy that immigration advocates have derided as threatening public safety. Governor-elect Deval Patrick has said he would try to rescind the policy.
Romney said he had been working on a budget blueprint for Patrick "that could be helpful to him, or he could throw it out." The document would be a guide for the incoming governor, with no more budgetary cuts or restorations anticipated during his term, Romney said.
"I can't guarantee there won't be something that happens, but there's nothing in the works at this point," Romney said.
A Patrick spokeswoman, Cyndi Roy, said she was unaware of the blueprint, but said she expected that Patrick's budget aides would review it once they receive it.
Asked about comments he made in 1994, during his Senate race against Senator Edward M. Kennedy, to the newspaper Bay Windows that he would be a more forceful champion for gay rights than Kennedy, regarded as a liberal icon, Romney repeated his explanation of his stance against gay marriage: "I'm not in favor of discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against people who have a different sexual preference than myself, and never have been in favor of discrimination. At the same time, I'm very committed to traditional marriage between one man and one woman and believe that marriage should be preserved in that way."
Romney declined to comment directly on a lawsuit -- separate from one he has filed to force lawmakers to take a vote on a petition banning gay marriage -- that seeks financial damages from legislators. Earlier, Romney had avoided reporters who pressed him to answer questions and said he had a meeting to attend. With a presidential run widely expected, Romney has been touring the country and taking educational trips abroad.
Romney cut off a reporter's question about Massachusetts voters who might feel cheated that theirs had become a largely absentee governor in recent months. Clapping his hands, feigning outrage, and laughing, he said: "And he took a vacation? You know what, this is my first vacation this year. I'm really delighted."