From last night's CSPAN event which occurred ahead of Thursday's first GOP primary debate, we learned the immigration position of 14 of the 17 contenders for the GOP nomination, and there is some variation, although not a lot. Even though no one mentioned Donald Trump in the 2 hour long event, it was clear his remarks had an effect in making the candidates skew right on the immigration issue since no one wanted to cede ground to The Donald's tough stance. (Trump was not present at the event.) While several candidates had previously backed comprehensive immigration reform, now all said that the border must be secured before there could be any talk about what to do about the roughly 11 million undocumented. Of note: not one candidate said that the 11 million should be deported or self-deport a la Mitt Romney. Here are some highlights:
Rick Perry: Quelle surprise. Wants to focus on enforcement before anything else. "Until we get that border secure, it's not going to stop... It's like a serious wound, you want to staunch the flow and that's not what's happening in this country now." With regard to visa overstays, "You go find 'em, you pick 'em up and you send 'em back where they're from."
Jeb Bush: Who formerly supported comprehensive immigration reform now says that the number of legal immigration should also be limited to those coming to join family in the U.S. rather than open to immigrants bringing a variety of relatives. He is worried about chain migration. His major policy shift is that he supports "a rigorous path to earned legal status" for the undocumented, which is distinct from his past support for a path to citizenship.
Marco Rubio: Has a very similar version of Jeb's policy which advocates limiting legal immigration to people who have ties to relatives already living here and also people who have job skills. "We admit one million people a year legally to the United States, but we do so primarily on the basis of whether or not they have a relative living here....We cannot afford to do it that way anymore. In the 21st century, legal immigration must be based on merit, on what you can contribute economically, basically whether you are coming to be an American as opposed to simply live in America." Rubio who formerly supported comprehensive immigration reform, now says that the border must be secure before any talk of relief for the undocumented is to be had.
Rick Santorum: Wanted a 25% reduction to the number of low skilled immigrants allowed into the country. "Everyone else is dancing around it. I'm going to stand for the American worker."
John Kaisch: Called for an expansion in temporary guest worker programs and those undocumented who obeyed the rules, should be allowed to stay. "Law-abiding, God-fearing" immigrants should be allowed to stay. Those who break the law, "have to be deported or put in prison."