- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani yesterday told a Hispanic group that the immigration crisis will be solved by securing the U.S. border and then offering illegal aliens a path to citizenship that would include a process of “Americanization.”

“A good American … understands freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, basics that underlie our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, basics that were given to us by God,” Mr. Giuliani told a gathering of the Latino Coalition at a speech in the District. “To the extent they don’t, you’re not really a good American.”

The former New York mayor said border security is his first priority, because of the terrorism threat.

After that, he said, all illegal aliens should “come forward,” and “if they are working and complying with the law, and they are making a contribution, let’s sign them up, let’s register them, let’s collect their taxes, and let’s let them pay their fair share.”

The crowd of about 250 people in the Four Seasons Hotel ballroom applauded. Mr. Giuliani then quickly added that his plan does not equate to amnesty.

He said that illegal aliens already in the U.S., of which there are an estimated 12 million to 20 million, should pay penalties and back taxes, and should be moved “to the back of the line” behind legal immigrants who have applied for citizenship. He also said that what President Bush and others have called a “path to citizenship” should include a demonstration of English-speaking skills and an understanding of “the basic ideas of America.”

“If they do that, then those people should become citizens, because we’ve re-established in this whole process now a sense of assimilation and Americanization,” Mr. Giuliani said.

Latino Coalition Chairman Hector Barreto praised Mr. Giuliani for agreeing to speak during the group’s two-day small-business conference, which ends today.

“We reached out and called and sent letters to every major candidate in both parties, but there was only one leader who accepted our invitation,” Mr. Barreto said.

Most of the other Republican presidential candidates are in California, Mr. Barreto said, preparing for their first debate tomorrow.

Mr. Giuliani indicated, however, that he sees the Hispanic community as a place where “the Republican Party could grow the best.”

“Maybe others haven’t seen that,” Mr. Giuliani said, referring to Republican forces against illegal immigration, led by Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who is also running for president.

Polls have shown Mr. Giuliani as the leading Republican candidate, and as the candidate who rates best when matched against Democratic front-runners such as Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Republicans were unable to pass immigration-reform laws last year before they lost control of Congress in the fall elections. Democrats, led by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, are now working with the Bush administration and top Republicans to reach a “comprehensive” bill expected to include provisions derided by many Republicans as amnesty.

Hispanic and immigrant-advocacy groups staged rallies and marches yesterday across the country, demanding immigration reforms that include a path to citizenship.

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