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Iowa caucus candidates want to secure border and restrict immigration

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | DECEMBER 05, 2011 7:20 AM

Candidate Positions:

Mitt Romney
Romney supports building a fence on the border but opposes amnesty and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. He supports recruiting high skilled immigrants to the US. He does not believe the government should provide social services to undocumented immigrants.
"I'd staple a green card to the diploma of anybody who's got of math, science, a master's degree, a Ph.D. We want those brains in our country," Romney said in a Nov. 22 debate hosted by CNN. "But in order to bring people in legally we've got to stop illegal immigration. That means turning off the magnets of amnesty, in state tuition for illegal aliens, employers that knowingly hire people that come here illegally. We welcome legal immigration."

Michele Bachmann
Bachmann supports putting in a fence around the United States. She also believes amnesty is a magnet for illegal immigrants to come to the United States. "We need to move away from magnets, not offer more," Bachmann said in a Nov. 22 debate on CNN.

Newt Gingrich
Gingrich said he does not think immigrants who have substantial ties to the United States should be deported, especially if they have been here more than 25 years, a stance most GOP candidates disagree with. He supported certain measures of the Dream Act, such as allowing in state tuition for illegal immigrants.
"I do believe that if you've been here recently and you have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border," Gingrich said in a Nov. 22 debate on CNN. "I don't understand how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century," Gingrich said in a Nov. 22 debate on CNN.

Ron Paul
Paul has voted yes to securing the border as well as to reporting illegal immigrants who receive hospital care. Paul is against giving amnesty to illegal immigrants and said social services should be provided by churches, not the government.

Rick Santorum
Santorum believes that the government should provide no benefits and services to illegal immigrants, and that they should not be given any in-state tuition. He also believes a fence should be built on the border.

Jon Huntsman
Huntsman supports bringing in high-skilled worker immigrants. Huntsman said he wants to federally secure law instead of having each state with their own policies. He believes the GOP should 'tack to the middle' on immigration.

Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson said he feels if the border were opened, a flood of Mexicans would become taxpayers. He does not believe creating a fence on the border will prevent illegal immigration. He said the government should focus on making it easier and simpler for willing workers to come to the U.S. with a temporary work visa, pay taxes, and fill jobs as the market demands.

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Most GOP candidates eyeing the party's presidential nomination want to secure the United States against illegal immigration. A fence that would surround the southern border is one solution most candidates in the race agree with.

"I do believe that if you've been here recently and you have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in a debate last month.

Some conservative immigration groups are backing the Republican candidates, pushing for tougher border policy.

"The United States is being destroyed through the non-enforcement of our existing border," said William Gheen, the president of Americans for Legal Immigration.

However, some immigration experts say not having a "road to citizenship" for illegals already here is bad policy.

Current federal law restricts immigrants eligible for resident status from applying if they initially came to the country illegally. Once they leave, they face a bar from returning for 10 years, said Barbara Schwartz, a University of Iowa clinical professor of law.

"Now what that law does is provide such a strong disincentive for them to regularize their status, even though they have a qualifying relationship because there's no process to do it that works," Schwartz said. "If they follow the law and do what they're supposed to, they'll be barred from returning. This has been the law since 1996, which is one explanation for why we have such high immigration rates."

Schwartz said loosening the law would make immigration policy more fair and resolve the high number of immigrants.

"That would resolve it — if we went back to what the law was before 1996," she said. "You're still deporting people who, once they're here, engage in behavior that justifies kicking them out, but for the most part, we're talking about people who, although they technically violated law, haven't done anything that poses a serious threat to everybody. They just come in looking for work."

Dianne Day, a member of the Iowa City Human Rights Commission, said federal officials should make it easier to gain legal access to the country, whether in the way of legal residency or citizenship.

"I would like to see a revision and rewriting of the quote of the federal immigration laws. I think they need to be updated," Day said. "We're more of a global policy now than we were 20 or 40 years ago, and historically, we've always had waves of immigrants to the country. Many times legislation has been adapted to fit the needs in our country."

While the Iowa City community has become more receptive to illegal immigrants, Day said, she still believes illegal immigrants should have more access to government services and change still needs to happen.

"The emotionalism that's tied to immigration is slower to change than the rational, empirical side of it," Day said. "People will resist change for a long time, in general. What we remember is always much rosier than what actually was."

Some conservative immigration activists say the current level of legal U.S. immigration — about 1.6 million people per year — is too high. They say that puts American jobs at risk.

"We've already got a hyper-level immigration rate," Gheen said. "Capable American high-skilled workers are being laid off at an unprecedented number to be replaced by immigrants."

Aside from U.S.-Mexican policy, most of the Republican caucus candidates thinks the country ought to encourage highly skilled immigrants to come to the United States, particularly those with science, math, and engineering training.

"I'd staple a green card to the diploma of anybody who's got a math, science, a master's degree, a Ph.D. We want those brains in our country," former Massachussets Gov. Mitt Romney said at a debate last month.

The caucus pack has also discussed providing some federal services to illegals. For instance, as the governor of Texas, Gov. Rick Perry supported legislation to give in-state tuition to illegals who had been in the country since they were young.

"If you say we should not educate children who've come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart," Perry said at an October debate. "We need to be educating these children because they will become a drag on our society."

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania responded by saying restricting in-state tuition would not prohibit children from attending a university.

"I think you're making this leap that unless we, the taxpayers subsidize this, they won't be able to go," Santorum said to Perry. "Not that they can't go. They can go, they just have to borrow money, find other sources to be able to go."


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