In Arizona, (Some) Republicans Reaffirm Commitment to Immigration Enforcement

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

February 23, 2012

Given that last night’s Republican Party debate was held in Arizona, America’s hottest immigration flashpoint, the results were pretty tame. Maybe the debate proved that when the subject is immigration, candidates tread cautiously. Or perhaps despite months of high unemployment, politicians still don’t understand the adverse relationship between American job loss and over-immigration. Let’s hope that when the winning Republican candidate finally emerges and he begins his campaign versus President Obama, an astute advisor will recommend linking immigration to jobs as an essential part of his platform.

Nevertheless, in general, the three leading candidates---Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich---didn’t back pedal on immigration so that represents a triumph of sorts. Ron Paul, the fourth candidate, wavered on immigration which is consistent with his past performances. Paul, to the displeasure of the Mesa audience, opposes a border fence. He’s the only participant to take that position. Instead Paul wants more border patrol agents but favors easier access for legal immigrants and day visitors to enter. No mention was made of the more important point---how to assure that they will exit.

Gingrich, on the other hand, not only endorsed a fence but made the point that for total effectiveness, a double fence must be built. He promised to have it completed by January 1, 2014. Disappointingly, however, Gingrich made a passing reference to “one step at a time” comprehensive immigration reform.

CNN moderator John King referred  audience member Sheriff Joe Arpaio as an example of local law enforcement’s role. King also mentioned “self-deportation.”

Although none of the candidates directly picked up on the specific prompts King provided, Romney reinforced his backing of E-Verify and used Arizona as an example of how well it works. Romney noted that since Arizona enacted E-Verify the illegal alien population dropped 14 percent while nationwide the decline has been 7 percent.

Santorum also favors E-Verify but fouled off a curve ball King threw him. King asked if “private households” should use E-Verify. Santorum is opposed but the Legal Workforce Act requires it of all domestic employees within two years. In his previous statements, Santorum has endorsed E-Verify so he might be excused from his misstep.

During the debate, CAPS aired its ad in key California markets that calls for less legal immigration in order to open up more job opportunities for Americans.

Read the CAPS’ press release announcing the add here; see the broadcast here. Read the debate transcript here.

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