- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fred Thompson yesterday became the first major presidential candidate to embrace attrition as the solution to illegal entry, saying the government should deny illegal aliens a hiding place by cracking down on the businesses and sanctuary cities that shield them.

In the first major policy announcement of his campaign, Mr. Thompson said the federal government should punish sanctuary cities by denying them some federal funds and also should withhold money from states and localities that offer social services to illegal aliens.

“Taxpayer money should not be provided to illegal immigrants,” Mr. Thompson said at a round-table discussion in Florida yesterday.

It’s the strongest line of any of the major presidential candidates so far and goes straight to the heart of the issue that is dominating the Republican presidential race.

For weeks, Mr. Thompson’s top Republican rivals — former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — have been trading barbs over whose immigration record was worse.

Mr. Romney did nothing to rein in sanctuary cities in Massachusetts during his term as governor, although he did oppose granting licenses to illegal aliens and struck an agreement with federal officials so state police could start enforcing some immigration laws. That agreement was overturned by his successor earlier this year before it took effect.

Mr. Giuliani, meanwhile, sued the federal government to defend New York’s sanctuary city policy. He said the city’s policy of not identifying illegal aliens was part of the policy that helped turn New York into a safer city in the 1990s.

Sanctuary cities have leaped into the news after reports this past summer that several New Jersey college students were slain by an illegal alien who had been arrested for violent crimes but was released. Officials had not checked his immigration status and did not notify federal authorities.

Mr. Romney also has proposed denying some federal funds to sanctuary cities, while Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and another presidential hopeful, is calling for leaders of sanctuary cities to be charged with a crime.

“Fred is a couple of months behind on this issue,” said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mr. Romney. “He’s copying a very strong proposal by Governor Romney, but he’s still copying nonetheless.”

Other campaigns said Mr. Thompson didn’t do much about cracking down on illegal entry during his eight years in the Senate and cast several votes that suggested that he was lenient toward illegal aliens.

In 1995, he was just one of six senators to vote against limiting services other than emergency care and public education to illegal aliens. And in 1996, he voted against creating an employer verification system to help businesses filter out illegal aliens who apply for jobs.

Mr. Thompson’s new proposal calls for changing the legal immigration system to reward those with needed skills and English-language proficiency. He said he would restrict family-based immigration petitions to spouses and minor children, which means immigrants could no longer sponsor their siblings, parents and adult children.

He called for doubling the number of agents conducting interior enforcement, raising the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents from its expected level of 18,000 in 2008 to 25,000, and allowing federal agencies to share information such as bogus Social Security numbers to help weed out illegal workers.

Mr. Thompson said attrition through enforcement “offers a reasonable alternative to the false choices currently proposed” — either giving legal status, or conducting mass deportations.

Mr. Romney also has said he hopes attrition cuts down on the number of illegal aliens, who then can be replaced by legal workers. But Mr. Thompson has gone the furthest of any candidate by basing his policy on the concept.

By contrast, Republican candidates Mr. Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee all embrace some sort of legalization for illegal aliens as part of their policy, although Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Giuliani have said they want to see the borders secured first.

All of the top Democratic candidates support legal status and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.



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