For two decades, immigration has largely split the Republican Party into two camps. The first wants to make a number of changes in the nation’s border and immigration programs, including finding a path for some of the 11 million people living in the country illegally to be become citizens. The second wants to focus primarily on border security.
Attempts to bridge that gap are tricky, as demonstrated by this week’s surprise primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Where some of the party’s top presidential prospects stand on the issue:
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky
Paul in 2013 proposed reinforcing border control efforts while allowing working immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to stay in the country and eventually obtain citizenship but not ahead of those here legally. The ideas received a tepid response when Paul spoke a year ago at the Iowa GOP’s spring fundraising dinner.
After Cantor’s defeat, Paul carefully restated his support for allowing workers to stay if they seek special visas, and he discussed what he called the “problem” of mass deportation.
“If you are not deporting people, does that mean you are normalizing them, and is that amnesty?” Paul said. “And so I really think that some of it, we’re trapped in this rhetoric and we have to get beyond that.”
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin
As a candidate in 2010, Walker said he would sign a law like one in Arizona that allows local police to stop people suspected of living in the country illegally. He also called for barring immigrants here illegally from state health care and college benefits.
Last year, he told an editorial board meeting he’d support a path to citizenship for immigrants under some circumstances. On Thursday, though, he said in an interview with The Associated Press that his comments had been misconstrued. “I’ve never supported any firm amnesty,” Walker said.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey
Christie signed a version of the DREAM Act to allow children in New Jersey of parents who are living in the country illegally to pay in-state college tuition.