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Message to Scott Walker: Actions Speak Louder than Words on Immigration

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Following last month’s Iowa Freedom Summit, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is ascendant in his party and appears to be a (very) early favorite to win the Iowa caucuses.  To his credit, Walker seems at least cognizant of his need to win Latino voters should be become a mainstream candidate, so far avoiding “self-deportation”-style comments.  But as Walker’s star rises, more people are going to start asking about his positions on issues like immigration.  And he’s going to have to come up with a real answer.

Over the weekend, Walker appeared on ABC’s “This Week” where he was asked what he would do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US.  Walker replied:

I think for sure, we need to secure the border. I think we need to enforce the legal system. I’m not for amnesty, I’m not an advocate of the plans that have been pushed here in Washington, and I think should I become a candidate, because I’m not yet, it’s part of the exploratory process here, that is something we’re going to lay out, plans for the future. But we’ve got to have a healthy balance. We’re a country both of immigrants and of laws. We can’t ignore the laws in this country, can’t ignore the people who come in, whether it’s from Mexico or Central America.

When pressed on whether deportation for the 11 million was a possibility, Walker added:

We need to enforce the laws of the United States, and we need to find a way for people to have a legitimate legal immigration system in this country, and that doesn’t mean amnesty.

Nice try, Gov. Walker, but that doesn’t count as an answer.  If you translate his remarks, Walker is for border security, for reforming the legal immigration system, and against least session’s Senate immigration bill.  Everything else is some jumble of Republican catchphrases: ‘country of immigrants,’ ‘enforce the laws,’ ‘no amnesty.’  Walker avoided answering both of the questions that were posed: what will you do with the 11 million?  Will you support mass deportation?  Walker is clearly trying to leave room to court both his party’s right wing and Latino voters, and so his answer doesn’t actually say anything.  (And we’re not the only ones who think so — National Review has slammed his comments from the right.)

His actions have already said quite a bit, however.  Walker’s Wisconsin is one of the 26 states suing over President Obama’s executive action, and Walker has said that “Republicans in Washington need to take the president to court. They need to force this issue.”  That’s effectively a vote in favor of mass deportation, considering what will happen if DACA and DAPA are overturned.  Elizabeth Perez, a Wisconsin DACA recipient, even published an op-ed this week in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explaining to her governor what would happen if his anti-executive action lawsuit succeeds:

If they [my parents] were taken away, I would be responsible for the well-being of my siblings. I would have to quit school and work full time to support my sisters and brother. I probably would have to apply for government assistance for my siblings — something we never have needed…

With executive action, millions of parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent children will live without that fear. We should celebrate this moment in history.

Gov. Walker, in 2013, briefly supported a path to citizenship before walking that support back.  He should rediscover his support for real immigration reform, and start giving real answers to questions about how he would handle this issue as president.