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Fact check - The GOP debate

October 20, 2011

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▸During Tuesday night’s debate in Las Vegas, Governor Rick Perry of Texas attacked Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, for his use of illegal immigrants to do yard work. Here are excerpts of the animated exchange, which featured finger-pointing, both candidates talking over each other, and, eventually, some booing from the audience:

PERRY: Mitt, you lose all of your standing . . . because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year. And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you’re strong on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy.

ROMNEY: Rick, I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life. . . .

PERRY: You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property. And the newspaper came to you and brought it to your attention, and you still, a year later, had those individuals working for you.

ROMNEY: We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn, and they had illegal immigrants that were working there. And when that was pointed out to us, we let them go. . . . So we went to the company and we said, ‘Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.’ It turns out that once questioned, they hired someone who had falsified their documents, had documents, and therefore we fired them.

This story was first reported by The Boston Globe. On Dec. 1, 2006, the Globe reported that Romney hired a landscaping company, Community Lawn Service with a Heart, that relied heavily on illegal Guatemalan immigrants to take care of Romney’s Belmont lawn. Employees told the Globe that the company’s owner knew they were illegal immigrants - an allegation the owner denied. Romney said he knew nothing about the illegal status of the workers. The company also tended to Romney’s son Taggart’s lawn.

A year later, on Dec. 4, 2007, the Globe published a follow-up story that found that Romney was continuing to employ the same company, which still used illegal immigrants to work on his lawn. Workers again told the Globe that they were in the country illegally.

Romney said then that he had met with the company owner in 2006, after the first incident, and instructed the company to make sure the people working for them were of legal status. Romney said the owner guaranteed that the company would comply with the law going forward.

After the Globe told Romney that the company was found using illegal immigrants a second time, Romney immediately fired the company.

▸Georgia businessman Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax policy came under criticism from most of his rivals. His plan would replace the tax code with 9 percent taxes on personal income, businesses, and sales.

CAIN: “It does not raise taxes on those that are making the least.’’

An independent analysis of his tax plan, released Tuesday, concluded otherwise. The Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank, said Cain’s plan would increase taxes on 84 percent of US households, hitting low- and medium-income households the hardest. The analysis said that households making $10,000 to $20,000 would see whopping tax increases averaging $2,705 - an increase of nearly 950 percent.

The rich, however, would get big tax cuts, the analysis said.

The study is in line with economic theorists - whether on the left or right - who note that sales taxes tend to hit low-income families the hardest because they spend more of their income than wealthier families do.

Unlike most states, Cain’s plan would not exempt food or medicine from sales taxes. Used items, however, would be exempt.

Cain said his plan would create zones where people and businesses could get additional tax deductions, which would reduce taxes for low-income people. The Tax Policy Center said it did not take the zones into account because the Cain campaign did not provide any details on how they would work.

▸ROMNEY to PERRY: “You probably also ought to tell people that if you look over the last several years, 40 percent, almost half the jobs created in Texas were created for illegal aliens, illegal immigrants.’’

There’s some basis for the assertion that significant numbers of jobs were taken by immigrants, but it’s a stretch to try to pinpoint how many of them may have been in the country illegally.

A September report from the conservative-leaning Center for Immigration Studies concluded that 81 percent of new Texas jobs were taken by newly arrived immigrants, basing that on a government survey used to calculate the unemployment rate. The group also estimated that about half of those jobs were taken by illegal immigrants.

The government survey that is the source of the numbers asks people whether they are foreign or native born, but doesn’t ask about their legal status. The center’s estimate was an extrapolation based on other government estimates of illegal immigrant populations.

SOURCE: Shira Schoenberg, Associated Press.