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Take Three: Scott Walker Lurches From Pro-Immigration Reform Republican to “Secure the Border First” Republican to Sessions-Style Radical – At Lightning Speed

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Once a Supporter of a Path to Citizenship, Walker’s Current Position: Undocumented Immigrants Go Home, Executive Action Must End, Legal Immigration Should be More Strictly Limited, Border and Interior Enforcement Need to be Ramped Up

We suspect that even Mitt Romney is surprised by the rapid and radical lurch to the right on immigration by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).  Furthermore, we imagine that Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is clucking and crowing now that a leading contender for the GOP nomination has bear-hugged the most anti-immigrant, anti-legal immigration member of the U.S. Senate.

And what a lurch it’s been. Based on his recent remarks, Gov. Walker now opposes any form of legalization of undocumented immigrants, opposes President Obama’s executive actions on behalf of immigrants, wants to further restrict legal immigration, and proposes to ramp up both border and interior enforcement without making reforms that deal humanely and practically with the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America and create expanded legal channels for workers and families with sponsorship opportunities.

Back in February 2013, Walker sounded a different note. This is how Politico reported it:

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Friday that he supports a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants but said that people who are waiting in line should have ‘first preference.’

Walker said that in addition to not having enough visas for immigrants is that the system in general is broken. ‘We just have a broken system. And to me, if somebody wants to come in and live the American dream and work hard … we should have a system that works and lets people in,’ Walker told POLITICO’s Jonathan Martin at the event.

He added: ‘The vast majority of people want to come here for the right reasons. They want to live the American dream.’

In July of 2013, Walker was asked about immigration reform by the Wausau (Wis.) Daily Herald editorial board.  This is how The Hill reported it:

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) says he supports a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally as part of an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.

‘If people want to come here and work hard and benefit, I don’t care whether they come from Mexico or Ireland or Germany or Canada or South Africa or anywhere else,” Walker said Tuesday during an interview with the Daily Herald Media Editorial Board of Wisconsin. ‘I want them here.’

Walker was then asked about the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally. The editorial board asked if he could “envision a world where with the right penalties and waiting periods and meet the requirements where those people could get citizenship?”

‘Sure,’ Walker responded. ‘I mean I think it makes sense.’

Walker’s comments came roughly a week after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform proposal that includes a pathway to citizenship. “

Then, on March 1, 2015, Walker began to harden his position.  Here’s how Bloomberg reported it:

“Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker admitted Sunday to changing his views on the vexing issue of immigration.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, the potential presidential candidate was presented with a 2013 clip in which he told a Wisconsin newspaper that he could envision undocumented workers who pay penalties being offered a pathway to citizenship. Walker said Sunday that he has since changed his mind on what many conservatives deem to be “amnesty.”

‘I don’t believe in amnesty, and part of the reason why I’ve made that a firm position is I look at the way this president has mishandled that issue,’ Walker said. ‘I think the better approach is to enforce the laws and to give employers, job creators the tools like e-verify and other things to make sure the law is being upheld going forward.

‘My view has changed. I’m flat-out saying it. Candidates can say that.’”

Walker’s March 1 move to the right was undermined by a March 26 Wall Street Journal story:

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told a private dinner of New Hampshire Republicans this month that he backed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and to eventually become eligible for citizenship, a position at odds with his previous public statements on the matter.

Mr. Walker’s remarks, which were confirmed by three people present, vary from the call he has made for “no amnesty”…

…during the March 13 private dinner, organized by New Hampshire Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford, N.H., Mr. Walker said undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be deported, and he mocked 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s suggestion that they would “self-deport,” according to people who were there.

Instead, they said, Mr. Walker said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to “eventually get their citizenship without being given preferential treatment” ahead of people already in line to obtain citizenship.”

Walker’s camp denied the story. Presumably to remove any doubt of his shift from the center-right to the right to the far-right, Walker has now made his newly-minted hard-line views crystal clear. In an interview with Glenn Beck yesterday, Walker said:

“‘In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying, we will make adjustments. The next president and the next congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages, because the more I’ve talked to folks – I’ve talked to Senator Sessions and others out there, but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today – is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.’

‘We need to have a much bigger investment from the federal government to secure the border, through not only infrastructure but personnel and certainly technology to do that and to make a major shift. If you don’t do that, there’s much greater issues than just immigration. Folks coming in from potentially ISIS-related elements and others around the world, there’s safety issues from the drugs and drug trafficking and gun trafficking and gun things with regard—but to get to immigration you have got to secure the border, because nothing you do on immigration fundamentally works if you don’t secure that border.’

Walker also discussed the need for interior enforcement and his position that undocumented immigrants must go home and get in the back of the line:

‘Then I think you need to enforce the law and the way you effectively do that is to require every employer in America to use an effective E-Verify system and by effective I mean you need to require particularly small businesses and farmers and ranchers. We got to have a system that works, but then the onus is on the employers and the penalties have to be steep that they’re only hiring people who are here, who are legal to be here. No amnesty, if someone wants to be a citizen, they have to go back to their country of origin and get in line behind everybody else who’s waiting.’

The specific shout-out to Senator Jeff Sessions is notable and no accident.  As Huffington Post captured, Senator Sessions recently authored a Washington Post op-ed in which he argued in favor of reducing legal immigration, “so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.”  The Sessions worldview is so radical that during the 2013 immigration debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee, an amendment he authored to restrict legal immigration was voted down 17-1.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice,

 “Scott Walker’s new positions make Mitt Romney’s immigration agenda look moderate by comparison. If Walker stands by his most recently-stated positions, he is saying no to executive actions that will benefit some 5 million undocumented immigrants, no to any realistic way for any of the 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in America to obtain legal status, no to expanded legal channels so that close family members and needed workers can be sponsored for legal immigration, and yes to ramped up interior and border enforcement on employers.  The combination is a witches brew of mass deportation, self-deportation and all-out enforcement that would terrorize undocumented immigrants, threaten employers who hire immigrants, harm the economy and sully our nation’s tradition as a nation of immigrants. This radical stance represents not only a direct challenge to pro-reform Republican constituencies, it ensures that a Walker candidacy will find it nearly impossible to broaden the GOP’s appeal to Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters – the fastest growing groups of voters in America.”