In last night’s Illinois Senate debate, candidate Mark Kirk essentially stated that he would not support the DREAM Act if it came up for a vote anytime soon, but that those who were concerned about his stance should back him because, well, he speaks Spanish.
Via Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel:
Illinois’ Senate candidates were grilled on their verbal missteps, flip-flops and opinions on controversial topics in Tuesday night’s debate in Chicago. Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias aggressively challenged each other on their positions, with the latter, for example, asking Kirk three different times whether he was shot at in a plane while in Iraq. The Senate race is currently a toss-up, according to Huffington Post Pollster. Some other highlights from the debate:
IMMIGRATION: Giannoulias said unequivocally that he supports the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and are pursuing higher education. He also said he believes the country needs comprehensive immigration reform and applauded Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for his work on the issue. Kirk touted himself as the “Spanish-speaking candidate” and pointed out that he went to school in Mexico. He said that the first step the United States needs to take is to “close down the border” and start “understanding” who is coming into the country. When asked how he would vote if the DREAM Act came up to a vote before all this is accomplished, he replied, “This is not the time to do that.” Kirk has faced significant pressure from immigration activists on the DREAM Act.
Giannoulias: My position is clear, I am in favor of the DREAM Act, I am in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.
I am proud of the leadership of our Senator Durbin, our senior Senator has shown on this issue. And this goes to the broader issue. People want leaders, they want to hear where you stand on the different positions. They asked Congressman Kirk just a few weeks ago where he stands on the DREAM Act, a bill that’s been out there for 10 years and he says he hasn’t read it yet, he hasn’t seen it. Well that’s not leadership. We can’t afford to tear these families apart. These are young men and women, who want a chance, a shot at the American DREAM.
Kirk: I think that first we have to restore the trust of the American people in the ability to administer our own border.
Right now that trust is completely broken. There are two candidates in this race – I am the Spanish speaking candidate, went to school in Mexico and very much care about that country. President Calderon is in a death struggle with drug cartels and says that he doesn’t have control of four of the thirty two states of Mexico. We’ve already seen that Phoenix has become one of the kidnap capitols of the western hemisphere. We don’t want that kind of violence spreading across onto our side. Remembering, of course, our status in Illinois as being the state with the highest number of per capita gang members in the state. I think that if we restore that trust, if we close down the border. If we make sure that for the homeland security of the United States, we accomplish a fundamental mission of understanding who is coming into our country. We reward legal immigrants who have played by the rules, then we open up the space for the rest of the debate. But until you restore that trust, I don’t think you can move forward and we should restore that trust.
Kelly Lester, the Daily Herald: But Congressman, if this came up for a vote before all that is done, what are you going to do? How are you going to vote?
Kirk: This is not the time to do this…
(Check out the rest of the transcript below the jump)