The two remaining candidates for the Republican presidential nomination—John McCain and Mike Huckabee—take
positions on immigration outright restrictionists criticize. McCain and Huckabee both favor temporary
work programs, and Huckabee’s advocacy of tuition support for the children of undocumented immigrants
also angers immigration restrictionists.
Both candidates favor a pathway to citizenship, although Huckabee’s path is a torturous one, requiring
illegal immigrants to return home to apply for legal residency and work permits. McCain’s co-sponsorship
in 2006 of a comprehensive immigration reform bill with Sen. Edward Kennedy made him a target of restrictionist
wrath. Although still supporting "earned legalization," McCain now insists that the U.S.-Mexico
border must be secured before there is comprehensive immigration reform. McCain supports an electronic
employment verification system to discourage illegal immigration.
Only Republican candidates Huckabee and Ron Paul have signed the "No Amnesty" pledge circulated
by NumbersUSA, one of the country’s leading restrictionist organizations. The pledge reads: " I
pledge to oppose amnesty or any other special path to citizenship for the millions of foreign nationals
unlawfully present in the United States. As president, I will fully implement enforcement measures that,
over time, will lead to the attrition of our illegal immigrant population … The 12 million illegal aliens
now here will have to go home."
John McCain on Immigration
- General position
- "Things are terrible, and we’ve got to fix it. But we’re not going to fix it until we have comprehensive
immigration reform. When there’s a demand, there’s going to be a supply. There are jobs that Americans
will not do, so we have to make it possible for someone to come to this country to do a job that an American
won’t do and then go back to the country from where they came."
- "The proposal that we had would require fines, would require getting back in the line, would
require deportation for some. It would require others to go back to the country of their origin. It would
require an enormous amount of time, as long as 13 years, before anyone could even be eligible for citizenship
in this country."
- "Our legislation does account for people who are here illegally, it does have an employment
verification system, and it weeds out those who shouldn’t be here, and it gives others a chance to remain
in this country. Look, this is a national security issue first and foremost. What we have done is come
together with the president and the leaders of both parties, and sit down and figure out an approach
to this problem. It is a serious national security problem. We need to act, and if someone else has a
better idea, I’d love to have them give it to us."
- "We’ve been working very hard for a couple of months with Democrats and Republicans, led by
the president and his Cabinet, to come up with a comprehensive solution and resolution of this terrible
problem of illegal immigration. One thing we would all agree on, the status quo is not acceptable. We
have to secure our borders. But we also need a temporary worker program, and we have to dispose of the
issue of 12 million people who are in this country illegally. This issue needs to be addressed comprehensively."
- Border security
- "I will secure the border and I would have the border state governors certify that their borders
are secure," he said. "Then, we would move onto other issues," such as what to do about
those illegal immigrants already in the country.
- "I have always believed that our border must be secure and that the federal government has utterly
failed in its responsibility to ensure that it is secure. If we have learned anything from the recent
immigration debate, it is that Americans have little trust that their government will honor a pledge
to do the things necessary to make the border secure."
- "Amnesty" and legalization
- "… we never proposed amnesty. But then you’ve still got two other aspects of this issue that
have to be resolved as well. We need to sit down as Americans and recognize these are God’s children
as well. And they need some protection under the law; they need some of our love and compassion. I want
to assure you that I’ll enforce the borders first."
- "Very seldom have I seen an issue that aroused this much passion with the American people. No
one is for amnesty. I and the president came forward with a plan that we thought was comprehensive and
workable with the priority being border security, which remains my position. Why we failed is because
the American people have lost trust and confidence in us. We have to succeed, because there’s 12 million
people who are in this country illegally, which is de facto amnesty, and we need a temporary worker program.
I commit to securing the borders first. We can secure those borders. As president, I would have the border
state governors certify that those borders were indeed secure."
- "Anything short of rounding up 12 million people and deporting them is called amnesty by the
opponents of this legislation … I’ll point out that [illegal immigrants] will have to pay back taxes,
they’ll have to pay a fine, they’ll have to go back to their country of origin, and it’s at least 15
years before they are in anyway eligible for citizenship."
- We have to stop the illegal immigration, but we’ve had waves throughout our history. Hispanics is
what we’re talking about, a different culture, a different language, which has enriched my state where
Spanish was spoken before English was. In Washington DC, go to the Vietnam War Memorial and look at the
names engraved in black granite. You’ll find a whole lot of Hispanic names. They must come into the country
legally, but they have enriched our culture and our nation as every generation of immigrants before them."
- English as official language
- "I would like to remind you that we made treaties with Native Americans, such as the Navajos
in my state, where we respect their sovereignty and they use their native language in their deliberations.
Everybody knows that English has to be learned if anyone ever wants to move up the economic ladder. That
is obvious. And part of our legislation, by the way, is a requirement to learn English."
- Immigration and foreign policy
- "But a secure border will contribute to addressing our immigration problem most effectively
if we also recognize the importance of building strong allies in Mexico and Latin America who reject
the siren call of authoritarians like Hugo Chavez, support freedom and democracy, and seek strong domestic
economies with abundant economic opportunities for their citizens."
- Guest worker program
- "I still believe we have to have a temporary worker program that works and addresses the issues
of the 12 million people that are here illegally."
Mike Huckabee on Immigration
- General position
- "The first step is a secure border, because otherwise nothing really matters. But I do think
the pathway has to include people going to the back, not the front of the line. There can’t be an amnesty
policy, because that’s an insult to all the people who waited, sometimes, ridiculously, for years, just
to be able to make the transition here. When people come to this country, they shouldn’t fear. They shouldn’t
live in hiding. They ought to have their heads up, because we believe every person ought to have his
or her head up and proud."
- "If someone is looking for a president who is going to have a mean spirit toward other human
beings, I’m not their guy. I’ll fix the borders, I’ll secure them, but what I won’t do is to do it because
I’m angry at them for wanting to come here for the same reason that the rest of us love America."
- "What we cannot do is allow our laws to be flagrantly broken, acting as if the economic benefits
to consumers justify their utter disregard for not only our laws, but potentially our security. In the
case of immigration, our laws are clearly out of sync with the economic realities of our global marketplace.
It would be sheer folly to attempt to suddenly impose strict enforcement of existing laws, round up 12
million people, march them across the border, and expect them to stay. What does make sense is a revision
of our laws, one giving those here illegally a process through which they pay a reasonable fine in admission
of their guilt for the past infraction of violating our border laws and agree to adhere to a pathway
toward legal status and citizenship. In exchange, our government gains the capacity to know who is here,
why they are here, where they are, and whether they carry a communicable disease. But much of the debate
has become mired more in definitions than in a real solution."
- Pathway to citizenship
- "I now believe that the only thing the American people are going to accept—and, frankly, the
only thing that really makes sense—is a pathway that sends people back to the starting point … Look,
if we can get a credit card application done within hours, it shouldn’t take years to get a work permit
to come here and pick lettuce. So part of my plan is that we seal the borders. You don’t have amnesty
and sanctuary cities. You do have a pathway to get back here legally that would take days, maybe weeks,
- Tuition support for children of undocumented immigrants
- "What I did support was when a child had been in our schools all his or her academic career
and wanted to go to college, if that student would apply for citizenship, then they would be able to
go to college. It was a meritorious scholarship. Quite frankly, I would rather have them college-educated,
I’d have those folks become citizens, college-educated, paying taxes, rather than being in a position
where their income was so low they ended up becoming tax-takers. We punish people who break the law.
We don’t punish the children of those who break the law."
- Employer penalties
- "What we have to do is to start putting the penalty on the people who are most benefiting from
them, the employers who are using those laborers in order to keep from having to pay decent wages."
- Tracking of immigrants
- "The reality is that we track packages from UPS and FedEx every time we order from Amazon.com.
And, yet, we’ve got a government that says we don’t know what to do and how to keep up with people. If
necessary, we ought to outsource this whole issue to FedEx and UPS. They seem to have a better way of
keeping up with packages than our government does."
- Professional immigrants
- "I think that there are a number of people that we should welcome into this country. Certainly
engineers and doctors and scientists that we may need legally coming here."