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The Way They Were – Republican Luminaries Engage in Real Talk, Not Immigrant Bashing

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The Republican Party’s hard right approach to immigration policy is often sharply contrasted with that of Democratic officeholders and candidates, but sometimes the current GOP extremism is called out by more moderate members of the same party.  Two Republican luminaries this week highlight the fact that today’s nativist GOP sounds nothing like the Republican Party that, not so long ago, could be quite moderate on immigration policy.

Speaking at Duke University yesterday, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said:

That immigrant culture that has renewed us…has been at the core of our strength…I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.

Rice also noted that one of her biggest regrets during her time in the Bush Administration was the failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, echoing remarks she made in 2008 when she stated:

Comprehensive immigration reform is the one thing I wish we’d been able to do, and it’s going to have to be done, and I hope it’s done soon.

Meanwhile, former Solicitor General and Clinton-era special prosecutor Kenneth Starr called parts of Arizona’s “show me your papers” law unconstitutional in advance of the legislation’s oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court later this month.  On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Starr noted:

In particular, the provision with respect to individuals who are undocumented seeking work.  Congress saw fit not to make that a crime. To have employer sanctions, but not employee sanctions, and I feel that’s problematic.

As Think Progress noted of Starr’s comments:

The Constitution does not permit states to intrude deeply into immigration policy because of immigration’s close connection to foreign policy and national security — both of which are issues that are reserved for the federal government.

Starr’s comments questioning the constitutionality of the Arizona “show me your papers” law contrast those of current Republican candidates and elected officials – from Mitt Romney endorsing the Arizona approach as a “model” on the Republican primary campaign trail, to Republican-controlled state legislatures throughout the South pushing for state-based “attrition through enforcement” laws, to Romney’s advocacy for a nationwide “self-deportation” purge of immigrant workers and families.