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Romney’s Mexican Roots: Is Mitt the Son of an Undocumented Mexican Immigrant?

GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney’s polygamist ancestors emigrated to Mexico more than a century ago, where his father was born in 1907 before returning north of the border to escape the Mexican Revolution.

The Huffington Post reports that Romney’s Mexican roots go back to 1884, when Miles Park Romney, a devout Mormon practicing polygamy, fled the United States where multiple marriages were illegal. Miles had seven wives.

Mitt’s father George was born in an American colony in the northern state of Chihuaha in 1907. In 1921, Mitt’s grandfather Gaskell Romney returned to the U.S., fleeing the Mexican Revolution with young George in tow, leaving all their worldly possessions behind. George went on to become CEO of now-defunct American Motors and governor of Michigan.

Not all the Romneys left Mexico during the Revolution. Around 40 descendants of those Mormon trailblazers remain south of the border, living in Colonia Juarez and Colonia Dublan, the two remaining American settlements that are located about 175 miles from the border.

“He’s got a great pioneer heritage starting with people that crossed the plains going from Illinois to Utah, and then on from Utah down to Mexico,” second cousin Leighton Romney said of Mitt in an NBC interview. “So there’s a great heritage there of people that had to fight for what they believed in and for people that had to travel to different places and learn different things. I think there’s a vast amount of experience that he could draw from there.”

“We certainly have a love for both countries,” Leighton told NBC. “I can sing both national anthems and tear up at both of them. I think that having two countries that you love and two countries that you can serve or be a beneficiary of their service is a great thing.”

Mitt Romney, born in Detroit in 1947, has never thought of himself as a Mexican. He has never visited his relatives in Chihuaha, nor does he talk much about his Mexican “ancestry.” And no wonder: his father is something of an undocumented immigrant. Undocumented does not mean illegal in this case, however, since immigration restrictions were not enacted on white arrivals until Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act of 1921. Besides, as the son of an American, George would have qualified for U.S. citizenship too.

Interestingly, as the son of a Mexican citizen, Mitt is also eligible for Mexican citizenship. All he has to do is head down to the nearest Mexican consulate with his birth certificate and register. It is highly unlikely that he would ever do so, though.

Still, Mitt’s Mexican roots could cause him some difficulty among certain segments of the conservative electorate, especially xenophobic and anti-“illegal” immigration Tea Party and Minuteman types. There is also a tinge of hypocrisy in play here; Romney has been a vocal advocate of sealing the Mexican border and deporting undocumented Mexicans from the United States. Romney recently slammed Republican candidate Newt Gingrich when he suggested legalizing immigrants who have been in the U.S. for decades and who “go to church and pay their taxes.”

Romney’s Mexican connection could also be embellished and exaggerated by political enemies in an attempt to turn certain voters, like the ones just mentioned, against him.

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