Republican Presidential Debate: Illegal Immigration Is Discussed

It’s too bad the Fox team devising the questions for the candidates in Thursday’s debate chose to focus on illegal immigration only. After all, Washington continues to import 125,000 LEGAL immigrant workers per month when over 14 million citizens are jobless.

Nevertheless, the subject of illegal immigration was explored, which is more than you can say for most Presidential debates.

According to the helpful analysis of NumbersUSA, none of the candidates is outstanding on the topic of enforcement, with only three getting a grade of C or B and most falling in the D and F categories. Underwhelming.

The most egregious response was arguably from Jon Huntsman, who refused to answer directly a question of whether he supported amnesty. Instead he touted his conservative credentials on other issues and strongly hinted he supported the McCain approach of border security first, then a massive amnesty to follow.

As Senator Charles Grassley reflected some years after his vote for amnesty in 1986, “If you reward illegality, you get more of it.”

It’s kind of amazing that public figures like Huntsman are so clueless about the basics of psychology and how they should be used in public policy. Do political leaders raise their children by rewarding undesirable behavior?

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has a long history of extreme hispandering, and he once remarked, “We have to find policies that extend to every American, and that includes people who are not yet legal.”

Being a clever fellow who understands his audience, Gingrich skillfully supported border security, bashed Obama and favored official English. However he also noted an alleged difference between newbie illegal aliens and longtime squatters, an unforced error if one believes that lawbreaking is illegal in a long-term way.

As I’ve reported, Governor Romney understands the issue better than many. However his dedication to principles on various issues has been questioned, with good reason. He said the right things in some respects during the debate, but rather than stapling green cards to PhD diplomas, as Romney suggested, the country should make it easier to Americans to get advanced degrees in useful fields.

Rep. Ron Paul was unduly concerned with employers having to check for work eligibility, when they already deal with similar paperwork in the hiring process. Using the government’s e-verify database to check the would-be employee’s social security number takes less than a minute and is not much to ask.

Businessman candidate Herman Cain stayed with his common-sense approach to governance, reciting a brief list of enforcement measures, based on existing laws. He stated, “We have a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. It’s called legal immigration.”

Imagine that!

The text below is taken from the Full Transcript of the Iowa Republican Debate.

BAIER: Now we turn to Susan Ferrechio with the Washington Examiner. She has the next round of questions for the candidates. The topic: illegal immigration. Susan?

FERRECHIO: OK, we’ll start with Governor Huntsman. You said that we need to bill a fence to secure our borders, but then we need to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already here in the country.
You said, quote, “There’s got to be an alternative to sending them back. That’s unrealistic.”

Governor Huntsman, are you proposing citizenship for illegal aliens?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, I’m — I am a conservative problem-solver. I am pro-life, I’m pro-Second Amendment, I’m pro-growth on economics, and I’m here to tell you that, when elected president, the thing we need to do most on illegal immigration — because there has been zero leadership in Washington. And with zero leadership in Washington, we’ve created this patchwork of solutions in all — in a lot of the states, which makes for a very complex and confusing environment.

When elected president, I’m simply going to prove to the American people that we can secure the border. That’s what they want done. And I’m not going to talk about anything else until we get it done. Secure the border.

Eighteen hundred miles, we’ve got a third of it done, between fencing and technology and National Guard boots on the ground. We can finish. And I will talk to the four border state governors and get verification from them that, in fact, we’ve secured the border.

And once that is done, then we can move on. But this discussion has zero in the way of any intellectual credibility until such time as we secure the border.

(APPLAUSE)

FERRECHIO: OK.

Governor Romney, turning to you, in 2008, you said you favored allowing American companies to hire more skilled foreign workers. With the unemployment rate now at 9.1 percent, do you still think that employers need to import more foreign labor?

ROMNEY: Well, of course not. We’re not looking to bring people in and — in jobs that can be done by Americans. But at the same time, we want to make sure that America is a home and welcome to the best and brightest in the world.

If someone comes here and gets a PhD in — in physics, that’s the person I’d like to staple a green card to their — to their diploma, rather than saying to them to go home.

Instead, we let people come across our border illegally or stay here and overstay their visa. They get to stay in the country. I want the best and brightest to be metered into the country based upon the needs of our employment sector and create jobs by bringing technology and innovation that comes from people around the world.

Look, we — we are a nation of immigrants. We love legal immigration. But for legal immigration to work, we have to secure the border, and we also have to crack down on employers that hire people who are here illegally.

I like legal immigration. I’d have the number of visas that we give to people here that come here legally, determined in part by the needs of our employment community. But we have to secure our border and crack down on those that bring folks here and hire here illegally.

FERRECHIO: OK.

Turning to you now, Mr. Cain.

When President Obama joked about protecting the borders with alligators and a moat, not only did you embrace the idea, you upped the ante with “a 20-foot barbed wire electrified fence.”

Were you serious?

CAIN: America has got to learn how to take a joke.

(LAUGHTER)

But let me — allow me to give you my real solution to the immigration problem. I happen to believe that is four problems.

Yes, we must secure the border with whatever means necessary.
Secondly, enforce the laws that are there. Thirdly, promote the path to citizenship that’s already there.

We have a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. It’s called legal immigration.

And then, fourth, I happen to agree with empowering the states and allow them to deal with that issue. If we work on the right problem, we will be able to solve it.

And in the case of immigration, we’ve got four problems that we need to work on simultaneously. It turns out that America can be a nation with high fences and wide open doors. That’s what built this nation.
So we can have high fences and wide open doors, all at the same time.

(APPLAUSE)

FERRECHIO: All right. Thank you.

Speaker Gingrich, you recently told Univision that you’re looking at the idea of having citizen boards choose which illegal immigrants can stay in the country and which would have to go. Who decides the memberships of these boards, and how would they work?

GINGRICH: I think it’s very important to go back and look at how the Selective Service Commission worked in World War II, because it was local, practical decision-making, and people genuinely thought it was fair and it was reasonable. But let me go back to your earlier question to Herman.

I thought the president’s speech in El Paso where he talked about moats and alligators was the perfect symbol of his failure as a leader.
He failed to get any immigration reform through when he controlled the Senate and he controlled us (ph). He could ram through Obamacare, but he couldn’t deal with immigration.

Now he has the Republicans in the House in charge, and he descends to a level of attack which I think is very sad for a president of the United States on an issue like this. We ought to control the border.
And I agree with Governor Huntsman, we can control the border.

I would be prepared to take as many people from Homeland Security’s bureaucracy in Washington and move them to Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, as are needed, to control the border.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: We should have English as the official language of government. And we should have a method for distinguishing between people who have lived here a long time and people who have come very recently.

FERRECHIO: OK.

Congressman Paul, you are opposed to a system that requires employers to verify the immigration status of their workers. Why would you want to eliminate one more tool to help curb illegal immigration?

PAUL: I don’t like putting the burden on our businessmen to be the policemen. That means he has to be policing activity.

And I also resent the fact that illegals come into this country, and they do have problems, but if a church helps them and feeds them, we don’t blame the church, or at least we shouldn’t in a free society. But I have a strong position on immigration.

I don’t think that we should give amnesty and they become voters.
But I do think we should deal with our borders.

But one way that I would suggest that we could do it is pay less attention to the borders between Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan and bring our troops home and deal with the border. But why do we pay more attention to the borders overseas and less attention to the borders here at home?

We now have a mess on the borders, and it has a lot more to do with it than just immigration, because we’re financing some of this militarism against the drug dealers on the borders right now to the tune of over $1 billion. And there is a mess down there, but it’s much bigger than just the immigration problem.

But I do not believe in giving entitlements to illegal immigrants at all. And there should be no mandates on the states to make them do it.

(APPLAUSE)

BAIER: As I said, we’ll be returning to topic number one, the economy, throughout the debate.

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