Their Own Words: GOP Candidates On Immigration

The restive Tea Party crowd at this week's Republican presidential debate booed Texas Gov. Rick Perry when he defended his state's policy of allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid at public colleges and universities.

Undocumented Guatemalan immigrants in Arizona are body-searched before boarding a deportation flight to Guatemala in June. i i

hide captionUndocumented Guatemalan immigrants in Arizona are body-searched before boarding a deportation flight to Guatemala in June.

John Moore/Getty Images
Undocumented Guatemalan immigrants in Arizona are body-searched before boarding a deportation flight to Guatemala in June.

Undocumented Guatemalan immigrants in Arizona are body-searched before boarding a deportation flight to Guatemala in June.

John Moore/Getty Images

It provided a glimpse of the emotional debate that surrounds illegal immigration — from Congress' continuing inability to pass comprehensive reform to disagreement over how to manage the nation's border with Mexico.

—Federal legislation known as the DREAM Act died in Congress last year, a decade after it was formulated as a bipartisan effort to provide conditional residency status to young illegal immigrants who meet certain education or military service requirements.

—Some conservatives, including a number of GOP presidential candidates, have called for repeal of a provision of the 14th Amendment that bestows citizenship on anyone born on U.S. soil.

—Advocacy groups continue to press for laws that would declare English as the nation's official language, and to ditch requirements that federal documents and election ballots be printed in other languages.

—And many, including most of the Republican candidates, continue to press for construction of a fence between the U.S. and Mexico. The Department of Homeland Security early this year canceled a "virtual fence" project after determining it was too expensive and ineffective — after already spending $1 billion on the project.

As the Republican candidates head to another debate in Florida next week, we compiled the their statements about immigration, some from recent debates, and some from earlier in their political careers.

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Michele Bachmann

The Minnesota congresswoman has co-sponsored legislation that would designate English as the official language in the U.S. She has also co-sponsored legislation that would eliminate birthright citizenship for children born to illegal mmigrants. In 2010, she voted against the DREAM Act.

I think that the American way is not to give taxpayer subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws or who are here in the United States illegally. That is not the American way. — CNN/Tea Party debate, Sept. 12, 2011
I support legislation that first addresses our most urgent problem: securing America's borders. We must start by using new technologies such as electronic surveillance where most effective. We need to enforce current laws by holding responsible those who willfully violate our nation's immigration laws. — House campaign website, Nov. 7, 2006
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Herman Cain

When the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza was asked during a June 13 Republican presidential candidates debate whether children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants should automatically be citizens, he said: "I don't think so."

Allow me to give you my real solution to the immigration problem…We must secure the border with whatever means necessary. Enforce the laws that are there. Promote the path to citizenship that's already there. We have a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. It's called legal immigration. And then, I happen to agree with empowering the states and allow them to deal with that issue. — Iowa GOP debate, Aug. 11, 2011
Americans do resent, however, the willingness of some to circumvent our laws and enter our nation illegally. While many, if not most, illegal immigrants are peaceful people simply seeking to provide for their families, some are not. In fact, some are quite dangerous, jeopardizing the safety and well-being of American citizens. Illegal immigration also puts a tremendous strain on America's entitlement and health care systems. — Cain campaign website, May 21, 2011
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Newt Gingrich

In 2007, the former U.S. House Speaker called for ending requirements that federal documents be printed in different languages. In an article for the conservative publication Human Events, he also advocated printing ballots in English, asserted that English should be a requirement for citizenship, and called for replacing bilingual education with intensive English instruction. In the past, he has endorsed a guest worker program that could lead to citizenship.

First of all, you control the border. We can ask the National Guard to go to Iraq. We ask the National Guard to go to Afghanistan. Somehow we would have done more for American security if we had had the National Guard on the border. If you don't want to use the National Guard, take half of the current Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy in Washington, transplant it to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. You'll have more than enough people to control the border. — GOP primary debate in New Hampshire, June 13, 2011
But along with making it much harder to sneak in, we need to make it easier for guest workers to enter the country legally and to work here as long as they obey the law. We need a guest worker program to ensure that guest workers pay taxes, get driver's licenses, buy auto insurance, abide by the law, and that filters out criminals and potential terrorists. The program should not be an automatic qualification for citizenship, though eventual citizenship should be held out as an opportunity. — Gingrich Communications website, Dec. 1, 2006
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Jon Huntsman

As Utah's governor, he signed a bill granting driving privileges to illegal immigrants who would be allowed to apply for a "driving privilege" card stamped with "Not Valid For Identification."

We can secure the border through means of fences, through technology, through the deployment of our National Guard troops, we can get it done. — CNN/Tea Party debate Sept. 12, 2011
As an American, the thought of a fence to some extent repulses me, because it is not consistent with the image that we projected from the very beginning to the rest of the world. But the situation is such today that I don't think we have a choice, and before we begin the conversation of processing 11 or 12 million undocumented workers, we've got to secure the border. — Windham, N.H. town hall, May 21, 2011
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Ron Paul

The long-time Texas congressman and physician in 2008 co-sponsored a bill that would have required government services be provided in English only. In 2007, he co-sponsored a bill to declare English the nation's official language, and he opposed the DREAM Act as "backdoor amnesty." Paul introduced legislation in 2006 to amend the Constitution to end "automatic birthright citizenship."

I don't like putting the burden on our businessmen to be the policemen. That means he has to be policing activity. But I have a strong position on immigration. I don't think that we should give amnesty and they become voters. But I do think we should deal with our borders. One way that I would suggest that we could do it is pay less attention to the borders between Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan and bring our troops home and deal with the border. We now have a mess on the borders, and it has a lot more to do with it than just immigration, because we're financing some of this militarism against the drug dealers on the borders right now to the tune of over $1 billion. And there is a mess down there, but it's much bigger than just the immigration problem. — Iowa GOP debate, Aug. 22, 2011
Immigrants who can't be sent back due to the magnitude of the problem should not be given citizenship--no amnesty should be granted. Maybe a "green card" with an asterisk could be issued. — In his book Liberty Defined, 2011
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Rick Perry

Asked in a 2010 interview with Newsweek whether he'd like to see the Constitution changed to end birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, the Texas governor responded: "Is it being abused today? It may be. Does it rise to the level of having a constitutional prohibition? Probably not." (In the same interview, when asked if he was running for president, Perry said. "Not going to run for president. Not going to be a vice presidential candidate. Not going to be in anybody's cabinet.")

There's not anybody on this stage that's had to deal with the issue of border security more than I have, with 1,200 miles of — of Texas and Mexico. And our federal government has been an abject failure at securing our border. We've had to spend some $400 million of Texas taxpayer dollars to send Texas Ranger recon teams down there. Strategic fencing in the metropolitan areas absolutely has a role to play. But the idea that you're going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso and go left for another 800 miles to Tijuana is just not reality. What you have to have is boots on the ground. You've got to have 450 Border Patrol agents trained up, 1,500 National Guard troops. You've got to have the aviation assets in the air putting real-time information down to the law enforcement. — CNN/Tea Party debate, Sept. 12, 2011
In the state of Texas, if you've been in the state of Texas for three years, if you're working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there. And the bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that's what we've done in the state of Texas. And I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole. — CNN/Tea Party debate, Sept. 12, 2011
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Mitt Romney

In 2002, the future Massachusetts governor favored a ballot initiative that eventually ended the state's bilingual education program. When running for president in 2007, he said: "On the birthright citizenship issue, we're still looking at it." Romney has been criticized for changing positions on an immigration overhaul proposal by GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, characterizing it as "reasonable" in a 2005 interview with the Boston Globe, and as "amnesty" by the time he was running for president against McCain in 2008.

With regards to illegal immigration, of course we build a fence and of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who come here illegally. That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America's great beneficence. — CNN/Tea Party debate, Sept. 12, 2011
Let me tell you what I did as governor. I said no to driver's licenses for illegals. I said, number two, we're going to make sure that those that come here don't get a tuition break in our schools, which I disagree with other folks on that one. Number three, I applied to have our state police enforce the immigration laws in May, seven months before I was out of office. — GOP YouTube debate, Nov. 28, 2007
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Rick Santorum

The former Pennsylvania senator supports mandating English as the country's official language, has voted for building a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico and has voted against allowing illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security.

I'm the son of an Italian immigrant. I believe in immigration. I believe that immigration is an important part of the lifeblood of this country. But what we have is a problem of an unsecure border. I believe we need to build more fence. I believe that we need to secure the border using technology and more personnel. And until we build that [fence], we should neither have storm troopers come in and throw people out of the country nor should we provide amnesty. What we should do is enforce the laws in this country with respect to employers, and we should secure the border. And then after the border is secured, then we can deal with the problem[s] that are in this country. — CNN/Tea Party debate, Sept. 12, 2011

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