- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One of the most important issues in this year’s presidential campaign is an issue that most leading contenders have been reluctant to discuss in a serious way: illegal immigration. Following are summaries of the candidates and the issues.

Mike Huckabee supports in-state tuition for illegal aliens and refuses to take a definitive position on making illegals eligible for federally subsidized Pell Grants or student loans. Mr. Huckabee dragged his feet on signing an immigration-enforcement agreement with the federal Department of Homeland Security, which would have allowed state police to arrest illegals. Mr. Huckabee says he favors securing the border and opposes sanctuary cities in which police and other local government agencies generally refuse to check the immigration status of arrested persons or cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In November, he told The Washington Times that he is willing to take the political heat for pushing to make it possible for illegal-alien students to receive taxpayer-funded financial aid and college scholarships: “Our country is better than that, to punish children for what their parents did in breaking the law. If that costs me the election, it costs me the election, but somewhere along the line we cannot just pander to the anger and the hostility without challenging it.” Mr. Huckabee also supported the idea of a path to citizenship for illegals, saying: “At some point, they do have to go back and start, they do have to pay a monetary fine, there has to be some type of restitution made for the law that has been broken, but it has to be reasonable and commensurate with the violation.”

Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, opposed providing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and vetoed legislation to provide in-state tuition to illegals. In December 2006, as he prepared to leave office, Mr. Romney signed a memorandum of agreement with the federal government allowing state law enforcement to assist the federal government apprehending immigration violators. As a presidential candidate, he now “opposes amnesty or any special path to citizenship for those here illegally” and says he opposed “each version of the McCain-Kennedy legislation as a form of amnesty.” Mr. Romney’s immigration plan includes provisions to reduce federal funding to sanctuary cities, improve interior enforcement, penalize businesses that hire illegals and end “chain migration” (the policy that says that if a child is born here, the entire family can come to the United States based on that child’s citizenship.)

John McCain has supported various proposals to grant legal status to illegal aliens. In 2006, he voted for final passage of S.2611, a bill to increase chain migration. He joined Democrats in supporting legislation to permit 11 million illegals to remain in the country if they apply for legal status and pay a $2,000 fine. Last year, he voted in favor of two amendments to invoke cloture on a mass amnesty bill. Mr. McCain often depicts the immigration debate as a stark choice between amnesty and mass deportation roundups. The May 29, 2003, Tucson Citizen quoted Mr. McCain as stating, “Amnesty has to be an important part of” any immigration solution. But, in the wake of the collapse of the Senate amnesty bill in June, Mr. McCain has taken a different approach, saying he has “gotten the message” that Americans oppose anything that smacks of amnesty, declaring that “we won’t have sanctuary cities” and vowing to support tougher border enforcement.

Rudy Giuliani, who as New York mayor accused the Immigration and Naturalization Service of “terrorizing innocent people,” sued all the way up to the Supreme Court to defend the city’s sanctuary policy against a 1996 federal law. Mr. Giuliani, who lost the appeal to the high court, continues to defend the policy. He says he would not try to change laws that make citizens of children born to illegal aliens. Mr. Giuliani says that to combat illegal immigration and ensure border security, he prefers building a “virtual” fence rather than a physical one in many areas near the border. He advocates biometric identity cards and a national database to keep track of foreigners entering and exiting the country. He opposes driver’s licenses for illegals.

Fred Thompson compiled a mixed voting record on immigration as a Tennessee senator from 1995 until 2003. In 1996, he voted for the Immigration Control and Fiscal Responsibility Act, an omnibus immigration bill that contained far-reaching provisions aimed at reducing illegal immigration, including additional border-patrol agents and equipment, worksite verification programs and a 10-year ban on legal re-entry for illegal aliens. But he voted for a series of amendments that weakened the bill by permitting chain migration to continue, and he joined with pro-business conservatives and liberal civil libertarians to support an unsuccessful amendment to kill a pilot program to help employers verify whether people they just hired have the right to work in the United States. This year, however, Mr. Thompson has put forward the most comprehensive plan of any major candidate for securing the border and cracking down on illegal immigration. It includes plans to target smugglers and gangs, to cut off discretionary federal grants to sanctuary cities and to deny federal education grants to states that provide in-state tuition in violation of federal law. Mr. Thompson’s goal is to force illegals to leave the country by removing the employment magnet and increasing the chances of being arrested and deported.

Ron Paul is critical of mass-amnesty legislation and adamantly opposed to providing food stamps and other taxpayer-funded benefits to illegals. He opposes birthright citizenship for the children of illegals, and favors deporting anyone who violates U.S. immigration law. Mr. Paul is harshly critical of the REAL ID Act — federal legislation aimed at preventing illegals from fraudulently obtaining driver’s licenses and other forms of identification, depicting it as a plan to “stampede” Americans into giving up “constitutionally protected liberties.”

Hillary Clinton, in both 2006 and 2007, voted to cut off Senate debate and pass mass-amnesty bills. Although she has voted in favor of some amendments to increase interior enforcement, fund a border fence and deter employers from hiring illegals, she usually votes with amnesty advocates. Last year, for example, Mrs. Clinton voted against stripping amnesty provisions from the Senate bill, and she opposed an amendment that would have made it more difficult for illegals to benefit from sanctuary-city policies. Mrs. Clinton opposed legislation that would have permitted the sharing of information on amnesty applications with intelligence agencies, Homeland Security Department agencies or law enforcement agencies. She also opposed legislation that would have permanently barred absconders, terrorists, gang members and some violent offenders from admission into the United States.

Barack Obama has voted for some measures to reduce the size of foreign “guestworker” programs. But the overwhelming thrust of his record has been supportive of amnesty and illegal immigration. In both 2006 and 2007, Mr. Obama supported the Senate mass-amnesty bills. He supported the Dream Act and opposed legislation information-sharing and legislation barring terrorists and other undesirables from the United States. Mr. Obama also opposed legislation on sanctuary cities.

John Edwards supports hiring more border patrol agents and opposes licenses for illegals. But on virtually every other issue related to illegal immigration, he avoids taking a public position. During his one term as a Democratic senator from North Carolina, Mr. Edwards sided with open-borders advocates time and again. He cosponsored legislation that would have released thousands of applicants for asylum in the United States while their cases are pending, thereby increasing the chance that they could abscond. He cosponsored legislation to increase the importation of low-skill, temporary foreign workers and supported in-state tuition for illegals.

Joe Biden generally supports mass amnesty for illegal aliens, including the 2006 and 2007 bills. And he has supported the Dream Act.

Bill Richardson boasts of being the first governor to send National Guard troops to the border, but he has long been an advocate of mass amnesty and weakened immigration enforcement. Mr. Richardson opposes a fence at the Mexican border. He says he favors a “national ID system” to help employers verify that a job applicant is legally in the country, and he supports giving “the opportunity for legal status” to illegals who “pass a background check, learn English, pay back taxes and fines for being here illegally.” He also favors driver’s licenses for illegals.

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