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UPDATED: Meet the 2016 GOP Candidates for President — and Their Positions on Immigration

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Here’s an updated primer on where each of the 2016 Republican candidates stand on immigrants and immigration reform.

For more 2016 election coverage from America’s Voice, visit AmericasVoice.org/2016.

Candidates Covered in this Research

Official Candidates

2016 Dropouts

Other Candidates

Official Candidates

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL)


Gov. Jeb Bush is often seen as pro-immigrant candidate. He famously said that immigrants cross the border without papers as an “act of love,”often talks about the need to pass immigration reform, and has called on Republicans to stop attacking Latinos.

However, on the 2016 campaign trail, Bush has changed his tune. He said he will end DACA and DAPA and no longer supports a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the United States without papers.


While Gov. Jeb Bush remains more vocally supportive of immigration reform and a permanent legislative fix to address the status of undocumented immigrants than most of the rest of the GOP 2016 field, his immigration stance is far from that of an unabashed pro-reform candidate.  Bush’s endorsement of “secure the border first’ positioning means that any legalization efforts he supports could be subject to moving goalposts and unrealistic metrics.

Further, Bush’s opposition to executive action programs for undocumented immigrants – and his support for legalization, short of citizenship – complicate his position and call into question his supposed pro-reform credentials.

Before reclaiming space as a decidedly pro-immigrant candidate, Bush needs to provide greater specificity about policy details on “secure the border first.”

Here are our top questions for Jeb Bush:

  • What do you believe is a ‘secure’ border?
  • Who would define it as such?
  • You support ending DAPA and DACA, when exactly will you end those programs.
  • When would he end these programs – before or after a legislative solution was passed to provide a permanent way forward for those eligible for executive action programs?
  • Would he end the current DACA program for Dreamers?

Bush is often referred to as one of the GOP’s best hopes for Latino voters, considering that he speaks fluent Spanish, has a Mexican wife, is father to biracial children and even oddly described himself as “Hispanic” on a voter registration card he filled out in 2009. But in 2013, he caught a lot of flak for walking back his support for a path to citizenship in a book that critics said “misread the political moment.” In the ensuing criticism, Bush flipped back to supporting citizenship again and early in the 2016 cycle he emphasized his support for a path to citizenship for DREAMers.

Last year, he famously said that immigrants cross the border without papers as an “act of love“: “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s kind of — it’s a, it’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.” He has often called on Republicans to pass legislative immigration reform and said (according to biographer Clint Bolick) that Republicans must find a way to “avoid committing suicide by continuing to alienate people who should be Republicans.” He also opposed Arizona’s SB 1070 law. At least on paper, Bush has suggested that he will not back away from his pro-immigrant views, saying that A Republican must be willing to “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles. And it’s not an easy task, to be honest with you.”

But on the 2016 campaign trai, however, Bush spoke about some undocumented immigrants in a way that is not so different from his GOP competitors. At the 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit, Bush remarked that visa overstayers should leave:

First and foremost we need to control our border…The 40 percent of the people that have come here illegally came with a legal visa and overstayed their bounds. We outta be able to figure out where they are and politely ask them to leave.

On executive action, Bush sounds like many other Republicans, claiming that the President’s announcement last November “undermines” legislation (it’s hard to understand how, since Republicans had nearly two full years to pass a House bill, and didn’t). He’s also refused to talk about whether he supports the GOP’s recent efforts to defund executive action and DACA.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 27, 2015, Bush was interviewed by Sean Hannity from FOX NEWS. He addressed immigration reform throughout the Q and A, indicating his support for reform that included legal status for undocumented immigrants. He also announced support for legislation to end Obama’s immigration executive action. Bush also implied that he would end DACA and DAPA in his first 100 days, if elected.

On March 7, 2015, Jeb Bush appeared at the Iowa Agricultural Summit. During his remarks, he again talked about the need for immigration reform, which included “legal status” for undocumented immigrants. After the summit, Iowa DREAMer Monica Reyes asked him if he would renew DACA. Bush said he wanted to pass legislation to protect DREAMers and compared Obama’s actions to those of a Latin American dictator. According to Fusion’s Ted Hesson, Bush did not provide an answer to reporters on this subject either:

Bush did not give a clear answer to reporters who asked whether he would end Obama’s deportation relief programs, which are largely on hold due to a court challenge by 26 states.

“We need to change the law,” he said. “That’s exactly what I said this afternoon. … We need to do this by law, not by executive order.”

Bush has also been using the “border security” talking point. At CPAC, in response to a question from Sean Hannity, “why not secure the borders first,” Bush replied, “Let’s do it, let’s do it, man. Instead of having a political argument about this, the President did use authority he didn’t have, the courts are going to overrule that, I’ve been consistent. Let’s control the border…there’s nothing wrong with that…there’s nothing holding back Republicans from putting forward a plan to do that.” In March, he was quoted pushing that line again

“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, anything you propose is amnesty,’ but that’s not a plan,” Mr. Bush said during a discussion with local business leaders here. “That’s a sentiment, that’s not a plan. I think the best plan, the most realistic plan, the grown up plan, if you will, is once you control the border and you’re confident it’s not going to be another magnet, is to say, ‘Let’s let these folks achieve earned legal status where they work, where they come out of the shadows.’”

On April 21, 2015, Bush was asked again what he would do with the President’s executive actions on immigration. The specific question was: “Would you undo his executive orders on immigration? His answer was:”The DACA and DAPA? Yes I would.’

After saying that, Bush called for the passage of immigration reform:

Bush also said he would undo President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

“The DACA and DAPA? Yes I would,” he said. “It’s possible that by the time the next president arrives the courts will have overturned those because this concept of prosecutorial discretion, which is what he’s used as the basis for these executive orders, is to look at cases on a case-by-case basis and he’s had millions of people basically by the stroke of a pen be given temporary status. I think the better answer is to fix the immigration problem, to solve it the regular order way, which is to go to Congress, have a proposal, work on a bipartisan fashion to fix a broken immigration system.”

It’s unclear if Bush would end the programs before legislation passes, but he did specifically say “The DACA and DAPA,” which would mean an end to the 2012 program for DREAMers as well as the November 2014 actions.

On April 29, 2015, Bush addressed immigration during a speech to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC):

“We have to fix the broken immigration system and that means controlling the border and making sure legal immigration is easier than illegal,” he said. “But it also means dealing with 11 million undocumented workers… where they pay a fine, they work, they do what they want to do which is come out of the shadows, provide for their families and over a period of time get earned legal status.”

Bush offers a solution for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, using the nebulous term “earned legal status,” which falls short of a path to citizenship.

In an interview with FOX News on May 11, 2015, Bush discussed his positions on immigration:

In response to criticism by conservatives that he supports a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants, Bush said he backs legal status — but not citizenship — for those who have entered the country illegally.

“A practical solution of getting to fixing the legal system is also allowing for a path to legalized status, not necessarily citizenship,” he said.

Nevertheless, he suggested that the country must take some kind of common sense approach to what to do with an estimated 11 million people living illegally in the United States, particularly children of illegal immigrants.

“What are we supposed to do, marginalize these people forever?” Bush asked.

He also suggested he would undo President Obama’s executive actions that suspend deportation for some illegal immigrants, under comprehensive reform legislation.

Bush’s remarks were interpreted by some to mean that he would not immediately undo the President’s executive actions:

Jeb Bush indicated in an interview to air Monday that he would wait until Congress pass an immigration overhaul before repealing President Obama‘s executive orders temporarily allowing some people in the country illegally to stay.

Bush reiterated to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that he would undo Obama’s orders known as DACA and DAPA. DAPA isn’t in place yet because it’s been challenged in court, but DACA is. When Kelly asked Bush how he would undo that order, according to a transcript of the recorded interview, he said: “Passing meaningful reform of immigration and make it part of it.”

The former Florida governor, a still-undeclared 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, had said in a Seattleradio interview last month that he would repeal both orders, noting that DAPA has yet to be implemented. “The better answer is to fix the immigration problem,” Bush said at the time.

Bush officially announced his intention to run for the Presidency on June 15th. And, as Vox’s Dara Lind reports, the most important moment in Bush’s speech wasn’t supposed to even happen:

A group of immigration activists protesting the speech stood up during the speech in Miami on Monday wearing shirts saying “LEGAL STATUS IS NOT ENOUGH” — a reference to Bush’s position that he supports legalization of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US, but doesn’t necessarily support giving them citizenship. And Bush actually responded to the protest, promising to do something for immigrants — without resorting to executive action like Barack Obama.

The reply was notable, as Bush made no references to immigration in the prepared text of his speech, even neglecting to mention the word at all. It also offered a reminder that Bush has yet to provide specific answers to several essential immigration policy questions.

On August 3, 2015, Bush released a six part immigration plan.  Surprisingly, all six points focused solely on immigration enforcement and border security measures.

While he bookends his six point plan with mentions of a rigorous path to earned legal status, his intent is clearly to establish hawkish bona fides as the Republican primary season kicks into high gear. This is not the first instance of Bush moving to the right on immigration.  Recently, he has backtracked on a path to citizenshippledged to end both the DACA and DAPA executive action programs in the first three months of his presidency, and embraced the GOP’s vacuous “secure the border first” excuse.

The following is a reaction from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“We expected Jeb Bush to be a straight-talking leader on immigration reform.  After all, he did say he’d be willing to ‘lose the primary to win the general.’  But instead of standing up for comprehensive immigration reform and arguing that the only way to fix any part of our nation’s broken immigration system is to fix all of it, he’s sliding further to the right and emphasizing security and enforcement.  In doing so, he’s becoming more of an artful dodger than a forthright leader.

“By downplaying the interlocking elements of comprehensive immigration reform and spending copious amounts of ink on enforcement, it’s clear that Bush is trying to appeal to skeptical primary voters.  Yes, he’s leaving himself a bit of wiggle room in hopes he can shift in the general election and emphasize the more immigrant and immigration-friendly elements of his reform plans.  But this is political calculation, not bold leadership.  In fact, it’s exactly the type of political shape-shifting that voters are tired of.  If Bush wants to run as a true immigration reformer in the 2016 election, he has to do it the whole time, not just a few months before the election.

“Mitt Romney’s experience should be a cautionary tale: if you go right in the primary, you could end up being so defined by that lurch.  With some three quarters of the American people in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, and Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters enthusiastically supportive, Bush would be better served by showing a little more Presidential-style courage and a little less Trump-driven fear.”

During an appearance on a conservative radio show, Bush used the derogatory “anchor babies” when referring to the United States citizen children of undocumented immigrants.

Latino and immigrant groups pounced on the remarks, which came a day after Trump used the same term during a Fox News interview:

“Do you have a better term?” Bush asked a reporter who questioned whether he regretted calling Americans with undocumented parented “anchor babies.” “You give me a better term and I’ll use it.”

“Is that not bombastic?” a different reporter then asked.

“No, it isn’t,” Bush answered. “Give me another word.”

Critics responded with a slew of alternative words for Bush to use — “They’re called ‘babies,’” tweeted Hillary Clinton  — but perhaps the most damning rebuke came from Jeb Bush himself, circa 2013.

Dr. Ben Carson


Dr. Ben Carson is a popular Tea Party candidate and a retired neurosurgeon who seems to have zero grasp of immigration policy. In a recent National Review piece entitled “My Prescription for Immigration Reform,” Carson spends a lot of time spewing popular Tea Party misconceptions about immigration — that the border is “very porous,” that immigrants have “easy access to health care,” and that people come here for “easy acquisition of public support through welfare programs.”


Carson’s primary immigration position mostly involves a guest-worker program — that immigrants currently here must self-deport in order to apply for. “People already here illegally could apply for guest-worker status from outside of the country. This means they would have to leave first.” Carson offers no ideas on what it would mean for the American economy to have immigrants leave, what it would mean for immigrant communities to be emptied out, or what would happen to DREAMers or the US citizen children of immigrants. Carson does advise that if immigrants “are wise, they will arrange with their employer before they leave to immediately offer them a legal job as soon as their application is received” — another indication that he has no idea how long backlogs can take or what families/employers are supposed to do in the meantime.

Later on in the same op-ed, he ridiculously suggests that “anyone caught involved in voter fraud should be immediately deported and have his citizenship revoked”, without explaining where a person with US citizenship is supposed to be deported to. At the 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit, Carson remarked that one of the priorities of the next president must be to “seal the border“. He also believes that immigrants are here for free services and that “you have to turn off the spigot…the whole gamut of things people can get to, by hook or by crook.”

On executive action, Carson believes that Obama is “very much like Putin” and that “work permits for illegal anything doesn’t make sense. It’s illegal, why would you do it?” (He also thinks that Obamacare is the worst thing for America “since slavery”. Read here for more truly wacky things that Carson has said.)

Also see:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)


Cruz was born in Canada to Cuban immigrant parents, but that hasn’t stopped him from being such a firebrand nativist that even members of his own party are furious with him for it.

In December of 2014, Cruz tried to force a government shutdown over immigration. His strategy turned into an utter failure and only led to a victory for Democrats.

He’s slammed the Supreme Court for its 2012 decision striking down most of Arizona’s SB 1070 law, called on Mitt Romney (during the 2012 election) to end DACA, and blamed the children’s crisis on the border on deferred action (“The only way to stop the border crisis is to stop Obama’s amnesty”).

Cruz’s contribution to the 2013 push to pass the Senate immigration bill was a nasty amendment preventing all undocumented immigrants from ever being able to attain citizenship; he also called the bill’s citizenship provision a “poison pill” that he accused President Obama of using to try and scuttle the whole thing.

More recently, Cruz has become one of the loudest Senate GOP voices calling for ending DACA and executive action, even calling it his “top priority.” Cruz even said one of his first actions as president would be to undo all of President Obama’s executive actions. He’s repeatedly pushed the entire party to the right on immigration, calling for votes against DACA and shooting down nascent Republican plans for legislation.

If 2016 Republicans are too busy passing forced litmus tests to effectively reach out to Latino voters, it will be — in good portion — Ted Cruz’s fault.


Cruz has said that executive action is the equivalent of President Obama “counterfeiting immigration papers, because there’s no legal authority to do what he’s doing.”

Because of President Obama’s executive actions, in December, Congress only provided funding for the Department of Homeland Security through February 27, 2015. The House of Representatives passed DHS funding legislation, which included language to end DACA and the November 2014 executives actions. Democrats in the Senate blocked consideration of the House bill because of that anti-immigrant language. The Senate took four cloture votes to proceed to discussion of that bill. Cruz voted to support the House bill all four times.

On March 23, 2015, Cruz announced his candidacy for President. He released two videos, one in English and one in Spanish. The English language version did not mention immigration while the Spanish language ad mentioned he’s the son of immigrants. A second English language video does mention Cruz is the “son of an immigrant father” – and also notes the Senator is “putting everything on the line to stop President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty.”

On the day of Cruz’s announcement, United We DREAM posted a video of running away from DREAMers. The UWD press release noted, “When asked a simple question: ‘Do you want to deport me?’ by Dreamers in a Senate elevator, Ted Cruz didn’t have the courage to own up to his own record.”

Following his announcement, Cruz did an “exclusive” interview with Sean Hannity of FOX News where he punted on a question about what policy to advance for 11 million undocumented immigrants in America after first ensuring border security. Cruz said, “You don’t have to answer every question one at a time.” This is one question that must be answered.

On April 29, 2015, Cruz addressed immigration in a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He claimed to be a champion of immigration reform, while reiterating his opposition to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants:

“I consider myself a proponent of immigration reform,” Cruz said during a question-and-answer session in Washington hosted by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “There is no stronger advocate of legal immigration in the U.S. Senate than I am.”

Cruz’s advocacy for “legal immigration” puts him at odds with Scott Walker. But, it’s hard to view Cruz as a proponent of reform when he referred to citizenship as a “poison pill”:

Cruz declined to directly answer a question from TIME about whether he would support a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., indicating a legislative fix should first focus on shoring up border security.

The freshman Senator said he believed there was significant bipartisan agreement around securing the borders and streamlining the legal immigration system. He criticized Democrats for crippling the recent reform plan in Congress by insisting on the “poison pill” of citizenship.

“They are treating immigration as a political cudgel,” Cruz said, “where they want to use it to scare the Hispanic community. And their objective is to have the Hispanic community vote monolithically Democrat.”

Coincidentally, on the day Cruz accused Democrats of using immigration as a political cudgel, House Republicans were holding a hearing on legislation offered by Rep. Steve King to limit birthright citizenship – a bill aimed squarely at immigrant families.

Following Hillary Clinton’s immigration event on May 5, 2015, Cruz criticized her position via Facebook:

Hillary Clinton’s declared pro-amnesty platform confirms that she, indeed, is running for Obama’s third term.

She wants to continue and expand President Obama’s illegal amnesty and is plainly telling voters she intends to ignore Congress and continue the lawlessness that is dividing our country.

I am proud of my record standing with the American people for a legal immigration system that secures the border, stops the amnesty, and upholds the rule of law.

Republicans should present a very clear contrast to the lawless and dangerous tactics embraced by President Obama and Hillary Clinton. And I hope to earn the opportunity to do just that in the general election.

On May 11, 2015, Cruz joined an amicus brief, filed by 113 Republican members of Congress, with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in opposition to Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

On July 5, 2015, Cruz appeared on Meet the Press. Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur noted that he was repeatedly asked the question ” What should the U.S. do with the estimated 11 million people already in the country illegally?” From Kapur:

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a fierce critic of illegal immigration, was asked that question five times in a Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press; each time he declined to answer.

“I don’t accept the premise that you have to solve every aspect of this problem all at once,” he said. Pressed again on what he’d do with undocumented immigrants, he added, “Well, my view is first, we secure the borders and solve the problem of illegal immigration. And then I think we can have a conversation about what to do about the people who remain here.”

Cruz had the chance to vote on what to do with the 11 million – and he voted against them in June of 2013.

In the lead up to the August 6th debate, Cruz continued to emphasize his strong opposition to reform, proudly noting his opposition to the 2013 bill:

“Illegal immigration is something I’ve been leading the fight on for a long, long time,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Tuesday in an interview on Fox News. “In the Senate, when the Gang of Eight amnesty bill was brought forward, I was proud to help lead the fight to stop the Gang of Eight amnesty bill. … When you are dealing with sanctuary cities, when you’re dealing with the crimes that come from illegal immigrants, I’ve been dealing with that and fighting against that for over a decade.”

Shortly before the Iowa Caucus, Ted Cruz told a young immigrant that he would deport people like her while at a campaign stop in Storm Lake, Iowa — the hometown of Rep. Steve King.

Think Progress captured the moment.

Cruz told Valdez that if he illegally immigrated to other countries, they would also deport him. “That’s what every other country on Earth does, and there’s no reason that America’s laws should have less respect than the laws of every other country on Earth,” he said. “We should welcome people who come following the laws, but there are consequences for breaking the laws, and that is part of what makes America the nation that we are.”

After finishing in a disappointing third place in South Carolina, Cruz appeared on The O’Reilly Factor on February 23, 2016. He was again asked about his immigration plans:

O’REILLY: Twelve million illegal aliens here in America. Mr. Trump says he would deport them forcefully. The federal authorities will round them up and send them back home. Goes bass home. It will cause a lot of money, but he says it is worth it, because we just cannot allow the law to be broken this way. Would you round up 12 million illegal aliens here and if so, how?

CRUZ: Listen. We should enforce the law. How do we enforce the law. Yes, we should deport them. We should build the wall. We should triple the border patrol and Federal Law requires that anyone here illegally that is apprehended should be deported. It is the greatest difference, Bill.

O’REILLY: Mr. Trump would look for them to get them out. Would you do that if you everywhere President?

CRUZ: Look. Bill, of course you would. That is what ICE exists for. We have law enforcement that looks for people, who are violating the law that apprehends them and deports them.

Greg Sargent took a close look at Cruz’s remarks and noted the impact of the Trump effect:

this is still very significant, because it once again reveals the extraordinary pressure that Trump has exerted on GOP politicians to continue lurching ever rightward on immigration. What Cruz confirms here is that he would cancel Obama’s enforcement priorities, i.e., the administration’s decision to de-prioritize the removals of longtime residents who are low-level offenders and have ties to communities. (This is distinct from Obama’s executive actions deferring their deportation, which all the GOP candidates also oppose and which are more formal than the 2011 statement of enforcement priorities that preceded them.) Cruz would end not just Obama’s executive actions; he would also do away with the underlying guidelines that Obama has instituted that de-prioritize the removals of longtime residents.

The real tell here, though, is that Cruz tries to get to Trump’s right, by saying: “The biggest difference between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio and myself is that both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio would allow those 12 million people to become U.S. citizens.” There is actually some truth to this. Trump has said he’d let the “good ones” back, though no one knows what this means. Rubio has indeed left the door open to citizenship later. But Cruz has flatly ruled out legalization of undocumented immigrants currently here forever.


Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)


Kasich has taken a more moderate position than many other 2016 candidates. But, his positions–particularly on DACA, DAPA, and executive action–are still unclear. His home state of Ohio is one of the Republican statues suing the Obama administration over the DAPA and Kasich has refused to take action to remove Ohio from the lawsuit.


John Kasich served in Congress from 1983 through 2001. He was working in the private sector during the immigration debates in 2006 and 2007. He returned to politics in 2010, when he ran for Governor of Ohio.

During the 2010 campaign for Governor against incumbent Ted Strickland, Kasich expressed support for both ending birthright citizenship and enacting comprehensive immigration reform:

While Strickland and Kasich agree that Ohio should not enact an immigration law similar to Arizona’s, they clash on related issues.

The governor would maintain birthright citizenship for children born here to illegal immigrants. Kasich, a former Fox News commentator, has been a longtime supporter of amending the Constitution to end the automatic right.

“It fundamentally changes a part of our nation’s governing documents that has served us well,” Strickland said. “We have had the right of citizenship conveyed upon those born in this country for many, many decades and I see no justification for changing this historical part of our Constitution.”

Kasich said he wants a comprehensive federal immigration law that protects America’s borders, adding, “One thing that I don’t want to reward is illegal immigration.”

Strickland opposes designating English as the official language of the U.S. or Ohio, while Kasich expresses sympathy for the idea.

“Here again I think it’s trying to come up with a solution for a problem that doesn’t really exist,” Strickland said. “I see no particular benefit in passing a law that just simply recognizes what is already in practice.”

Kasich’s view: “I believe in English first, but, look, my priority is job creation. This is not at the top of my agenda. But I believe people should learn how to speak English and I think it ought to be English first and I think it’s important for people to be able to succeed.”

After winning election, Kasich rarely addressed the immigration issue as Governor.  He was reelected to this office in November of 2014. Shortly thereafter, as rumors of a potential presidential bid grew louder, Kasich indicated his views had “evolved,” stating in November 2014:

Hours before Obama outlined executive action that could grant a reprieve from deportation for millions now in the country illegally, Kasich conceded that his own stance on immigration has “ evolved” because he is “maybe a little smarter now.”

“The country needs healing,” he said. “I wouldn’t ever be one to tell you that I don’t change my mind or that my thinking doesn’t evolve. … I’m also a different guy than I was years ago. This job grows you up.”

He was the only governor during the Republican Governors Association’s conference this week to express openly a willingness to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“I don’t want to see anybody in pain,” Kasich said. “So I guess when I look at this now, I look at it differently than I did in ’10. Because I’ve become convinced that sometimes, you just got to say this is what we’re gonna do and if you don’t like it, there’s nothing I can help you.”

However, Ohio did join the Texas lawsuit against the President’s executive immigration action.  The Governor maintained that was a decision of his state’s Attorney General, but has not criticized it since the decision was made.

In April of 2015, he spoke about immigration in Detroit:

Kasich came across as blunt and relaxed. He even twice touched on immigration reform, saying the country has to stop fighting and just solve the problem.

“I don’t favor citizenship but I wouldn’t take it off the board because what are we going to do? Keep yelling at one another and for how long?” he said.

Ohio immigration advocates tried to meet with Governor Kasich to discuss the issue in Columbus, but were repeatedly denied. When Kasich made his first foray to Iowa on June 24, 2015, Ohio leaders and impacted families confronted their Governor over his position on the President’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) programs.

From a rodeo at the state fairgrounds to an auditorium packed with those curious about the could-be presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s first trip to Iowa was marked by repeated questions on one topic: immigration.

Kasich’s stance is this: He wants to secure the border, but he also argues that it would be virtually impossible to deport the roughly 12 million people without documentation currently living in the United States. He said he thinks they should pay a price for breaking the law — such as paying a fine — but “I’m not for putting them on a school bus, driving them to the border, opening the door and telling them to get out.”

He was first asked about the issue early on Wednesday by an 11-year-old boy from Stow, Ohio, named Andrew, who traveled to Iowa with his mother — a Peruvian immigrant — to ask him to drop his support for a lawsuit opposing President Barack Obama’s executive actions allowing some undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States. Andrew declined to give his last name because of his mother’s immigration status.

Kasich included Maria and Andrew in his immigration remarks later in that same day:

At a stop at the Iowa Historical Building later in the morning, Kasich recalled meeting Maria and Andrew, saying, “you know, they’re just good people. They’re made in the image of the Lord, and you know, there’s a big element of compassion connected to how we treat people who are trying to find a way to a better life.”

In an awkward exchange seemingly ripped from an Onion Headline (seriously), Governor John Kasich responded to a question about Latino voter outreach with a comment about tipping hotel workers.

He said.

“I look at our friends in the Latino community as people that ought to be voting Republican. I mean, they’re very strong family. We could all learn a little from them about the importance of family, couldn’t we? Because they are great, they are God-fearing, hard-working folks. And a lot of them do jobs that they’re willing to do. That’s why, in a hotel, you leave a little tip, you know?”

As Jorge-Mario Cabrera with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) told the Los Angeles Times,

“Most candidates have lopsided, stereotypical ideas about immigrants, which include the sense that immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are only good while serving others. The comment lacks history, sense of how important immigrants are to our economy, and vision where immigrants are more than just ‘the help.’”

Heading into the New Hampshire primaries, Kasich reiterated that he opposes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants currently living in the United States.

And then for the 11.5 million that are here, if they have not committed a crime since they’ve been here, I believe they ought to pay some back taxes, pay a fine, never get on the path to citizenship, but get legalization

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)



Rubio is the candidate who was once hailed by TIME as the “Republican Savior,” partly for being able to speak convincingly about a middle path on immigration and how no one side had a monopoly on all the answers.

But since announcing his 2016 bid for the White House, Rubio has taken a hard lurch to the right on immigration reform. He famously walked away from his Senate “Gang of 8” immigration bill and now opposes DACA and DAPA saying he would “love to defund” the programs.

For awhile, Rubio clearly wanted to have it both ways on immigration but can’t.  He paired his opposition to executive action with support for Dreamers, yet he refused to specify when or how he would end the DACA program – until February 18, 2016. Two days before the South Carolina GOP primary, Rubio appeared on CNN and said of DACA, “I will on my first day in office get rid of it because it’s unconstitutional.”


In the interview with TIME, Rubio disclosed how his immigrant mother had influenced him on immigration, leaving him a voicemail referring to “los pobrecitos,” or “the poor things”:

Tony, some loving advice from the person who cares for you most in the world. Don’t mess with the immigrants, my son. Please, don’t mess with them.

They’re human beings just like us, and they came for the same reasons we came. To work. To improve their lives. So please, don’t mess with them.

In 2013, Rubio parlayed his reputation on the issue into support for the Senate immigration bill, which he co-wrote with the Gang of 8 and helped pass.

But then a funny thing happened. Under criticism for his role in the immigration bill, and sensing that his presidential aspirations were potentially in danger, Rubio abandoned his own legislation and the immigration reform effort. Instead of sticking to his guns, Rubio decided to burn his bridges at both ends. He announced a newfound opposition to the House passing an immigration bill that could conference with the Senate legislation. He claimed a new preference for a piecemeal approach to the issue, rather than S. 744’s comprehensive tactic. He began to sound like a border hawk:

I’ve learned in the last year that because of such an incredible distrust of the federal government no matter who’s in charge, the only way you’re going to be able to deal with this issue is by first securing the border and ensuring that illegal immigration is under control.

Think Progress actually published this evolution of Rubio repeatedly changing his politics on the issue. Last August, a clip of him jeering Dreamers (“We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws. You’re doing harm to your own cause because you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States”) and throwing them out of his fundraiser was shown all over Spanish-language news.

This year Rubio published a book that only briefly mentions immigration. In it, Rubio again emphasizes the piecemeal approach, writing that “achieving comprehensive immigration reform of anything in a single bill is simply not realistic. Having tried that approach, I know this to be true firsthand.” His piecemeal strategy would involve at least three components: a border security bill, legal immigration reform (including a guest-worker program and high-tech visas), and a program for the 11 million (registration, temporary non-immigrant visas, and at least a decade before applying for permanent residency). Rubio does not mention, though he also does not rule out, a future pathway to citizenship.

On DAPA and DACA, Rubio has said that he would “love to defund” executive action – and he voted with the rest of GOP Senators to proceed to consideration of the DHS funding bill, which included House-passed legislation to block DACA and the 2014 executive actions. He’s called for an end to DACA, though left things open-ended about how long the program might be allowed to continue. He warned Obama not to go through with executive action, citing the excuse that such a move would dampen legislation: “not only does it raise very serious constitutional issues but in my opinion it sets back the cause of reform for a long time.” And recently he said that executive action was the “wrong decision in the first place…this idea that our immigration laws somehow need to ignored is quite frankly ridiculous.”

In early February 2015, at an book signing in Iowa, Rubio said the next President should not support DACA and DAPA.

Then, at CPAC, at the end of February 2015, Rubio completely backed away from the “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration legislation:

“It wasn’t very popular, I don’t know if you know that from some of the folks here,” Rubio said with a smile, earning laughs from the crowd, when asked about his earlier support for the bill by Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“You have 10 or 12 million people in this country, many of whom have lived here for longer than a decade, have not otherwise violated our law other than immigration laws, I get all that,” Rubio said. “But what I’ve learned is you can’t even have a conversation about that until people believe and know, not just believe but it’s proven to them that future illegal immigration will be controlled.”

That tone is a big change from his support for the 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that badly wounded him with the GOP base, though it’s a return to the views he held before he joined the bipartisan group.

Rubio said recent border issues had proven his earlier approach was wrong, calling a border security first approach “the only way forward.”

“You can’t just tell people you’re going to secure the border, we’re going to do E-Verify. You have to do that, they have to see it, they have to see it working, and then they’re going to have a reasonable conversation with you about the other parts, but they’re not going to even want to talk about that until that’s done first. And what’s happened over the last two years, the migratory crisis this summer, the two executive orders, that’s even more true than it’s been.”

In front of the conservative crowd, Rubio abandoned once and for all the advice of his mother and decided to adopt the hard-core anti-immigrant positions and rhetoric.

Rubio has taken a number of votes in this session of Congress to back up his newest views on immigration. Because of President Obama’s executive actions, in December, Congress only provided funding for the Department of Homeland Security through February 27, 2015. The House of Representatives passed DHS funding legislation, which included language to end DACA and the November 2014 executives actions. Democrats in the Senate blocked consideration of the House bill because of that anti-immigrant language. The Senate took four cloture votes to proceed to discussion of that bill. Rubio voted to support the House bill three times, but missed the fourth vote on February 23, 2015.

Rubio announced his candidacy for president on April 13, 2015 in Miami, Florida. His campaign kick-off was met with protests from immigration advocates. There was a lot of commentary and focus on Rubio’s immigration record, described by Politico as a “debacle.” Following his announcement, Rubio was interviewed by Sean Hannity on FOX News where he defended his record on immigration:

When asked if he had changed his position on immigration by saying that people wouldn’t accept immigration reform until they were sure the border is secure, he stated “no, I think we — still need to do immigration reform. I talked today about needing to modernize our immigration system. And I think the American people are prepared to do that, but not until they know that future illegal immigration is under control, and right now, they have a president that refuses to enforce the immigration laws. In fact, through executive order, has ordered his agencies not to enforce his immigration laws. So, I think immigration reform as long as Barack Obama is president is virtually impossible. I think we need a president that first, begins to enforce our laws, puts in place methods that improve the way we enforce the law, and if we do that, then I think people will be very reasonable after that about what to do with the 12 million that are here.”

Rubio added, “I think that if you’re in this country and you violated our immigration laws, — after we’ve proven illegal immigration is not going to happen in the future, that we have systems in place to keep that from happening. You have to come forward, undergo a background check, pay a fine, start paying taxes, and what you would get is a work visa that allows you to be in this country to work and to travel, and that’s all you should be allowed to have for at least a decade or longer. And after that, they would be allowed to apply for permanent residency like anybody else would, not a special process. I know that there are people out there that say, ‘no, they should only have the work permit for the rest of their lives.’ I don’t think that’s necessarily a good idea, but if that’s the only way we can move forward on it, I would explore it.”

In an interview with NBC’s Kasie Hunt on April 15, 2015 and in excerpts of an interview conducted with Univisión’s Jorge Ramos, Senator Rubio offered more confusion than clarity regarding his position on President Obama’s executive action programs, both last November’s DAPA and DACA expansion programs as well as the original 2012 DACA program for Dreamers.  For example, Hunt asked Sen. Rubio, “would you reverse the President’s executive order that allows some young people to stay here in this country?”  Rubio answered:

 “We’ll, that’ll eventually– I– I– I wouldn’t say that we would immediately reverse that one.  I’ve always distinguished that one from the first one, but I’ve always said that eventually that will not be the permanent policy of the United States.  It will have to come to an end at some point, and I hope it comes to an end because we’ve reformed our immigration laws … I wouldn’t [repeal DACA immediately] – and the reason why is it would be very disruptive.  You now have people that are working.  They’re in school.  They’re employees.  And suddenly overnight they’d be– illegally in the country.  But ultimately there will come a point where it will have to end, maybe not in six months but at some point it will have to end.  And that’s why there should be urgency about moving forward on immigration reform, beginning with immigration enforcement.  If we can prove to the American people that future illegal immigration is under control, I believe we can move quickly thereafter to modernize our legal immigration system and then deal with the fact that we have 12 million people in this country who have been here for longer than a decade who are here illegally.”

Following Rubio’s appearance with Jorge Ramos, right-wing publications criticized the Florida Senator for appearing to offer support for DACA. But, Rubio’s spokesperson told Breitbart this was a translation issue:

As Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told Breitbart News, “Marco went on Spanish media this week and rejected a comprehensive immigration reform approach, said that the immigration executive orders won’t be permanent policy under his administration, and that he would oppose legalization today because we first need to prevent a future illegal immigration crisis by enforcing our laws.”

“Marco also said it’s important not to end DACA immediately since it would be disruptive given all the people that have it,” continued Conant, “but that at a certain point it would have to end since it cannot be the permanent policy of the land.”

“In case anything was lost in translation, he believes we have to fix our broken immigration system in a series of smaller bills, starting with border security and enforcement, then modernizing our legal immigration system, and then eventually dealing with the illegal immigrants living here,” said Conant.

Something was lost in translation, here. And, this issue piqued the interest of conservative media. Rubio’s spokesperson Alex Conant had another interview with Breitbart News where he tried to further clarify Rubio’s views, which resulted in a headline, Rubio Team: Legislative Amnesty For DACA Recipients Before Border Secured. Here’s an excerpt:

“For the sake of argument let’s deal with the kids separately,” Conant said. “We wouldn’t repeal the executive order for the kids on day one, and we would work to replace it with legislation—well, he wouldn’t work to replace it, he would replace it with legislation that gave them a permanent legal solution to their status.”

Conant argued that Rubio’s belief that it’s okay to grant the amnesty to so-called DREAMers—people who came to the United States as minors illegally “through no fault of their own”—before the border is secured is something he has always believed. Conant points to a bill Rubio was working on in 2012 to do just that—a bill that was upended when Obama moved forward with DACA without consulting Congress.

“I mean when we were working on the 2012 bill, that was independent of the border,” Conant said. “These are the kids that already—I mean, the kids are in a very unique situation because they didn’t willingly break the law. They came here … through no fault of their own. They’re in a special category that we should deal with separate from the rest of the population that came here knowingly and illegally.”

On Saturday, April 25, Rubio was interviewed by with the Des Moines Register editorial board and again embraced the “border security first” excuse for inaction – a well-crafted soundbite, but not a serious policy prescription. He said, “The key that unlocks our ability to make progress on immigration is to prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control.” The facts are as follows: (1) According to the Migration Policy Institute, the federal government spends $18 billion a year on immigration enforcement, more than on all other federal law enforcement priorities combined; (2) All of the border security metrics written by hard-line Republicans that served as triggers in the Senate’s 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill have already been met; (3) The Senate immigration bill that passed in 2013 on a bipartisan basis had the toughest border security provisions in American history, and it still wasn’t “tough enough” for most Republicans;  (4) Contrary to Republican claims that immigration enforcement has “collapsed” under this President, the Obama Administration has deported a record number of immigrants compared to previous Administrations; and (5) According to the Pew Research Center, net migration from Mexico has fallen to zero, and perhaps less.

On May 11, 2015, Rubio joined an amicus brief, filed by 113 Republican members of Congress, with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in opposition to Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Rubio’s answers  on immigration during a May 18, 2015 appearance on FOX News Sunday resulted in America’s Voice asking: Why is Anyone Taking Marco Rubio Seriously on Immigration?  Rubio said,  “I still believe we need to do immigration reform … The problem is we can’t do it in one big piece of legislation – the votes aren’t there.”  Rubio purposefully gets the recent history wrong.  It is well known that after the bill Rubio helped author passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis, the votes werethere in the House of Representatives to pass some reasonable version of immigration reform (a point made over the weekend by Republican consultant Ana Navarro and New York Times political reporter Jonathan Martin).  Even though virtually all Democrats and a sufficient number of Republicans were prepared to pass reform in the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wouldn’t bring it up for a vote because he insisted on a “majority of the majority” of Republicans.

At the Voters First Foum in New Hampshire on August 3, 2015, Rubio stressed border security as the key to more reform:

Marco Rubio says the government must prove illegal immigration is under control before providing a path to legal status for the millions of people now living in the country illegally.

The Florida senator, speaking at a forum for Republican presidential candidates, says “that is the key that unlocks the ability to make progress on anything else.” He spoke Monday.

Rubio says such an effort starts with securing the border and making sure people who entry the country legally do not overstay their visas.

Rubio says the next step is reforming the country’s legal immigration system. That system should grant entry to the country based on merit more than whether someone has family already living in the U.S., he says.

Having sponsored the 2013 immigration reform bill, Rubio knows full-well that the border is as secure as it has ever been. What he did in New Hampshire was adopt that “border security” first talking point, which means, reform will never get to that “next step.”

In the lead up to the August 6th GOP debate, Frank Sharry summed up Rubio’s current positioning:

Marco Rubio is still trying to explain his way out of his Gang of Eight participation instead of having the guts to stand up for it and defend it.

Rubio’s duplicity was also called out by Sharry in an interview with Business Insider:

“He wants people to think he’s for reform when, in fact, his approach means no reform ever,” said Sharry. “He’s doing this so he can say to donors and to Latinos, ‘I’m with you,’ and say to conservatives who are angry at him for working on the Gang of Eight bill, ‘I’m with you.’ … The right loves it, because they know that immigration reform will never happen under his plan.”j

During the CNN debate on September 16th, Senator Rubio dusted off his well-crafted talking points on his preferred way forward on immigration.  He is careful to try to portray himself as serious and consistent on immigration reform – see this recent exchange with Jake Tapper on CNN for an example of Rubio’s self-portrayal on immigration.  Yet Rubio’s notion that he has been consistent on immigration doesn’t pass the laugh test and his preferred piecemeal approach is more excuse for inaction than serious concept.

The first step in Rubio’s piecemeal vision is the “secure the border first” excuse for inaction  — the height of cynical, circular logic: Rubio says we can’t reform immigration until the border is secure, but the border can be deemed “not yet secure” because some people still get across, therefore we can’t move forward on immigration reform until the border is secure first.  Rinse and repeat.  It gives a policy-sounding argument to continually move the goalposts so that nothing is done for 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in our nation.  

As the Wall Street Journal has editorialized:

“Republicans who claim we must ‘secure the border first’ ignore the progress already made because their real goal isn’t border security.  It is to use border security as an excuse to kill immigration reform.”

As Frank Sharry said back in August:

“It’s unf—ing believable to me that this hasn’t been exposed,” Sharry said. He later added, “He’s usually mentioned in the same sentence with Jeb Bush, and there is no relationship to the reality.”

However, more reporters closely following the 2016 campaign trail have begun to note Rubio’s right-turn on immigration, with ThinkProgress’s Alice Ollstein calling Rubio’s rhetoric in New Hampshire “Trump-like” in tone:

As Trump has won over angry crowds across the state with speeches linking immigration to crime and terrorism, Rubio has begun to mimic his hard-line stance.

“The first thing we must do is make sure ISIS never gets into the United States using our immigration system,” he told a crowd in Laconia on Wednesday. He added that, if elected, he would hire 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, finish 700 miles of fences and walls along the U.S./Mexico border, and strip federal funding from “sanctuary cities” like Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Rubio also blasted the current system for legal immigration based on family reunification, saying that “maybe that worked okay in the 1950s,” but he would institute a system based solely on work skills.

Facing criticism from Ted Cruz for stating different views about DACA in Spanish language media and English language media, Rubio appeared on CNN on February 18th. Asked to respond to Cruz’s assertion, Rubio said of DACA:

In fact right after that interview, Univision reported that I said that DACA has to go away and it will. I will on my first day in office get rid of it because it’s unconstitutional.

I was against it when the president did it. I remain against it now. It cannot be a permanent policy and I’ve said that repeatedly.

In The Plum Line at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent explained the implications of Rubio’s statement:

So there you have it. Under President Rubio, hundreds of thousands of people would lose their temporary reprieve from deportation — and the other benefits of DACA, such as work permits — on the first day of his presidency.

Donald Trump


Donald Trump has moved the entire Republican Party to the right on immigration reform and the #TrumpEffect  on the GOP is threatening the future viability of the party with Latino and immigrant voters.

To say Trump’s racist remarks set off a firestorm of criticism would be an understatement. Yet, he continues to repeat and double down on those remarks, which have shaken up the GOP contest – and impacted his business endeavors. Full coverage on the Trump controversy can be found here.


After years of publicity stunts, Trump finally made his Presidential candidacy a reality in June 2015. Here’s a list of outlandish and offensive things he’s said on immigration:

  • At the 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit, Trump criticized Jeb Bush’s preference for humane immigration reform by saying of undocumented immigrants, “Remember, half of them are criminals.”
  • As president, he would use his extensive construction experience to build a border fence, which he said would “be a beauty
  • Executive action will let in “the ISIS
  • Immigration reform is a “death wish” and “suicide mission” for Republicans because in his opinion, immigrants will never vote Republican
  • Immigrants are “taking your jobs
  • The US should let in more European immigrants
  • Ebola-infected immigrants will “just walk into the country” over Mexican border
  • Children on the border are a “concerted effort” by Obama to bring migrant children into the US so they can vote Democrat
  • Also, remember that time Trump offered $5 million for Obama’s college transcript?

On March 25, 2016, Trump appeared on The Steve Deace Show. Right Wing Watch posted his vicious remarks about immigrants “destroying the fabric of the country”:

If things don’t turn around soon, Trump warned, immigrants may destroy America and the middle class will rise up.

“People are flowing into this country by the millions, not by the thousands, by the millions, and destroying the fabric of the country,” Trump warned.

On May 9th at the South Carolina Freedom Summit, Trump ranted about the southern border, vowing to build “the greatest wall you have ever seen”:

‘Mexico will not be taking advantage of us. They will not be having open borders. And the greatest builder is me. And I would build the greatest wall you have ever seen. The greatest. And just to finish, you know who’s going to pay for the wall? Mexico. With all the money that they have taken from us.’

Trump finally declared his candidacy in June of 2015, and during a rambling speech, lurched into full-on anti-immigrant mode reminiscent of Iowa’s Steve King:

During a lengthy Tuesday morning announcement that he would seek the Republican presidential nomination, real estate mogul Donald Trump claimed that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are “rapists” who “are bringing drugs” to the U.S. He also indicated that he would build a “great wall” on the southern U.S. border and that he would dismantle President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive action that has shielded hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

In a call with supporters, Trump revealed details about his plan to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants and an additional 4.5 million American citizens born to immigrant parents. In the call, Trump said that “with good management” the process should “take 18 months to two years if properly handled.” He later said he would seal the border in one day — his first day in office.

Despite reports that Trump’s plan could cost up to $166 billion and that completely removing 11 million people from the country is “impossible” on any timeline, Trump simply replied, “Yeah, it’s called really good management.”  He later got more specific, “I think it’s a process that can take 18 months to two years if properly handled.”

Trump’s “really good management” would create an extremely hostile environment on a scale unseen before in this country. In essence, he would need to create a police state with vigilantes and informants constantly targeting and checking papers of anyone they deemed to be an immigrant.

2016  Dropouts

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ)


Chris Christie has distanced himself from his past record on immigration – which was relatively moderate for a Republican governor and included some decided pro-reform sentiments and several important legislative wins, such as an in-state tuition bill.

In 2010 Christie supported a path to citizenship for immigrants, saying the “president and the Congress have to step up to the plate, they have to secure our borders, and they have to put forward a commonsense path to citizenship for people.” But by 2013 he was changing his tune, saying that immigration “has to be figure out by those in charge of the national government. My job is to fix what’s going on in New Jersey.” He’s slammed President Obama for not pursuing immigration reform earlier in his tenure as President, even as he refused to offer specific immigration proposals of his own.

Early in 2015, we noted that Gov. Christie’s appearance at the Iowa Freedom Summit, organized by the viciously anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King, represented a disturbing break from his past record. The news that Christie signed onto a brief seeking to block immigration executive action programs is further proof that he plans to embrace anti-immigrant politics in the 2016 presidential cycle. By May, Christie had backed away from supporting a path to citizenship.


Prior to the “Trump Effect,” Christie could almost be an applaudable figure on immigration reform. He received F grades from NumbersUSA on immigration and was once criticized for prosecuting only about a dozen immigration violations when he was a US Attorney between 2002 and 2007. In 2008 when Christie was preparing to run for governor, he said that “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime,” a position that was actually to the left of his Democratic opponent and earned Christie a hit piece by the anti-immigrant show host Lou Dobbs.

In 2013, Christie’s interim appointment to the US Senate, Republican Jeff Chiesa, voted for the Senate immigration bill after Christie counseled him to “do what you think is right.” To bolster his pro-immigrant credentials for his reelection in 2013, Christie reversed a previous position and became a supporter of the New Jersey state DREAM Act. After he signed the bill into law, he publicly extolled DREAMers, saying: “”You are an inspiration to us. You’re an inspiration to us because in you we see all that the future of our country can be.” In his 2013 reelection, Christie spent heavily on Spanish-language television, radio, and direct mail — and was rewarded with nearly half the Latino vote, 48%. Last year, he spoke about his “great empathy” for children coming across the border, saying that he would “take every request” to house the children and make decisions “based on its merits.”

However, heading into 2016, Christie believed that building a base in Iowa requires kissing the ring of Steve King. He’s attended King’s annual pheasant hunt and once called King his “pal,” saying:

At first glance, you might not think that me and Steve King are the most natural pals, this guy from New Jersey and this congressman from Iowa. But here’s the thing that we have most in common: We stand up for what we believe in.

In a November 2014 New York Times profile, Christie repeatedly went out of his way to avoid talking about immigration, saying that he would only broach the topic “if and when I become a candidate for president of the United States. Until that time, I have no role in the immigration debate except for how it may affect the citizens of New Jersey.” He did, however, call last fall’s talk of shutdown over immigration, “hysteria.” Read here for a National Journal timeline of all the times Christie has refused to talk about immigration.

On March 25, 2015, Elise Foley from Huffington Post reported that Christie had joined the legal fight against Obama’s immigration executive actions:

Christie joined Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota in filing a brief on Monday that asked an appeals court to maintain an injunction that has prevented the Obama administration from moving forward with deportation relief programs it proposed in November 2014.

The brief says Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana and South Dakota would face “irreparable injuries” should those programs be allowed to move forward.

New Jersey is not one of the 26 states that filed the lawsuit against the executive actions. But, Christie made his anti-immigrant position clear by joining the legal fight in the Fifth Circuit, despite the fact that New Jersey has over 200,000 potential beneficiaries of executive action.

During a visit to New Hampshire on April 15, 2015, Christie explained his reason for engaging in the Texas anti-immigrant lawsuit:

Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday that he was sending a message to President Obama when he quietly threw his support behind Texas and other states suing the federal government over the president’s amnesty program for unauthorized immigrants.

Christie, speaking to reporters in New Hampshire, said Obama’s handling of immigration reform has been “wrong” and that he took to the courts to tell the president as much.

“The signal I’m sending is that the president shouldn’t do it by executive action and that he should work with the Congress to get something done,” Christie said. “It’s the only message that I’m sending on that.”

During a May 18, 2015 interview on FOX News, Christie sent another message, a very anti-immigrant message, by backing away from support of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He now opposes it:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the country is an “extreme way to go,” acknowledging a change in his position on the issue since 2010, when he supported one.

“Well, I think I’ve learned over time about this issue and done a lot more work on it,” he said in an interview that aired Monday evening on Fox News’ “The Kelly File.” “And I think everyone has to do what you need to do to be able to get educated on these issues and learn, and back in 2010 I was in my first couple months as a governor. [I’ve] now learned some of the ramifications for all these things, and what I’m saying now is that we’ve got to come up with a solution for it.”

Christie also told FOX “We need to have an intelligent conversation about this.” But, he’s been heading in the opposite direction.

At an event in Florida on June 2, 2015, Christie tried to explain his immigration views:

He began by laying out two concepts “that we should all be willing to agree to.” First, the immigrants living in the country illegally are not going to self-deport. Second, there are not enough law enforcement resources to “forcibly deport those folks,” he said.

While this may seem like the basis for a policy embracing a pathway to citizenship, Mr. Christie, who had previously offered tepid support for the idea,rejected it on Fox News last month.

After outlining his two points, he acknowledged that the options for comprehensive overhaul get much narrower, and he became cautious in explaining how he would deal with the “forward-looking issue,” or even how to define it. But he did articulate two central aspects of his eventual immigration platform.

First, he rejected the idea of “building a wall or a fence along our entire border,” calling it “inefficient” and “ineffective.” He argued that anyone who wanted to would find a way through it.

And he also called on employers to shoulder more of the responsibility for monitoring immigrants. “E-verify should be used by everybody, and be forced to be used by everybody,” Mr. Christie said.

Christie did make the case for a path to citizenship. But, as we’ve noted, he’s flipped on that issue. In January of 2016, Chris Christie signaled support for Ted Cruz’s immigration strategy.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signaled he would support handling the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country illegally in a similar way to Sen. Ted Cruz: by “attrition through enforcement.”

Asked by the Washington Examiner’s Byron York how he planned to handle undocumented immigrants, Christie said that Donald Trump’s proposal to deport them all was unrealistic. Asked then if he would “envision something like what Ted Cruz has called attrition through enforcement,” Christie said he would.

“I think that would be the practical effect of it, yes,” Christie said.

Carly Fiorina


Carly Fiorina is a Republican from California who has adopted immigration positions at odds with the realities and preferences of her home state. While she supports the DREAM Act, the rest of her immigration positions place her closer to Steve King than the wishes of California voters. She does not support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already here: “I do not support amnesty,” she said in a debate 2010.


Fiorina supported Arizona’s anti-immigrant state law SB 1070. “I understand why Arizona” passed the law, she said, adding it was because of “fear and frustration.” “The people of Arizona did what they felt they had to do.” An SF Gate blogger pointed out how that comment sounds to Latinos: “The ‘fear’ comment was telling. Fear of who, Carly? What kind of fear? Fear of Latinos?”

And she is one of the Republicans trying to blame President Obama for the lack of immigration reform. This year she said of the President: “He sunk comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. He did nothing to push forward immigration reform when he had the Senate, the House and the White House. He said in ’11 and ’12 he couldn’t do anything.

And then he delayed his action for the elections. Unbelievable cynicism.” This despite the fact that it’s been the Republican House that has killed immigration reform this year, with Obama being the one to bend over backwards to try and push them toward a vote, before finally announcing an executive order that gave relief to 5 million immigrants last month.

On executive action, she tweeted that “executive action on immigration isn’t leadership. It’s cynical politics at its worst” and told Fox News that “it’s terrible. I think it’s an overreach.”

After Fiorina announced her candidacy on May 4, 2015, she pushed a “border security” message and indicated she did not support citizenship for undocumented immigrants:

She said securing the border is the first priority to being able to “fix the legal immigration system.”

“We now have 16 different visa programs,” she said. In a previous radio interview with Fox News, Fiorina explained that half of the illegal immigrants who are here in America originally came on a visa that has now expired.

Fiorina said America must decide what to do with people who came to the country illegally. She said she doesn’t believe they have the right to earn citizenship.

“I think the privilege of citizenship should be left to those who worked hard and did it the right way,” Fiorina added.

Following Hillary Clinton’s immigration event on May 5, 2015, Fiorina took a swipe at her proposals and reiterated the “border security” talking point:

Newly minted Republican candidate Carly Fiorina told CNN that Clinton was “pandering.” Then she offered this innovative fix:

“I think we need to start with some basics, ya know, I think we need to secure the border.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Lindsey Graham has long been an outspoken advocate for immigration reform. He was one of the original “Gang of Eight” who drafted the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill. He spoke out often and clearly about the need for real reform even as he faced reelection, including a primary challenge in 2014.

Sen. Graham has been outspoken about the need for Republicans to present serious and realistic policy ideas to deal with undocumented immigrant population – and about the political blowback the GOP will face if they do not.  Though he strongly opposes President Obama’s executive action on immigration, Sen. Graham has been steadfast in his support for comprehensive immigration reform.  If he runs in 2016, Graham will likely be the GOP candidate most unequivocally supportive of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a pathway to citizenship.

In November 2014, Graham said on CNN: “Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that’s national security, that’s cultural, that’s economic…I’m close to the people in the House … but I’m disappointed in my party.  Are we still the party of self-deportation? … Is it the position of the Republican Party that the 11 million must be driven out? I have never been in that camp as being practical. I am in the camp of securing our borders first, fixing a broken legal immigration [system], have an E-Verify program so you can’t cheat.”

In December 2014, Sen. Graham told CNN, “If we [Republicans] don’t at least make a down payment on solving the problem and rationally dealing with the 11 million [people in the country illegally], if we become the party of self-deportation in 2015 and 2016, then the chance of winning the White House I think is almost nonexistent.”

Sen. Graham has been a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform efforts throughout his time in the Senate, including voting for a comprehensive reform bill in 2007 and being one of four Republican Senate “Gang of Eight” members who helped draft the Senate legislation in 2013.

In a June 2013 Fox News Sunday debate ahead of the Senate’s ultimate 68-32 passage of its reform bill, Sen. Graham rejected the “secure the border first” canard, saying: “We practically militarized the border.  I have been hearing for years, ‘let’s secure our border, let’s regain our sovereignty.’  We have secured our border in a way I could not have imagined five years ago.  This whole border security amendment, I think, is the most aggressive attempt to control the southern border and regain our sovereignty.  This bill reduces our deficit by $890 billion.  It is good for our economy.  This bill is good for our national security.  No one can get a green card until border security measures are up and running, until E-Verify is up and running controlling a job in America.”

Despite his outspoken pro-immigration reform legislative stance, Sen. Graham vocally opposes President Obama’s executive action programs and supports South Carolina’s efforts to challenge executive action in courts, with Sen. Graham notingin December 2014: “This overreach by President Obama is breathtaking, and every American should be unnerved by the implications of this decision. The executive action is unprecedented and tramples on the concept of constitutional checks and balances … Attorney General Wilson is absolutely right to go after this presidential overreach, and I will be supportive in every way possible.”

However, unlike most in the Republican field, Graham also opposed GOP congressional attempts in the early months of 2015 to tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to overturning or blocking executive action immigration programs from going into effect.  After a court ruling stayed the new programs from going into effect, Sen. Graham urged fellow Republicans use the ruling as an opportunity to pass a clean DHS funding bill and counseled Republicans “to let the courts deal with Obama’s immigration actions,” per the Washington Post.  He also said of Republicans’ continued doomed efforts, “I think we’re dumb as a rock to do what we’re doing.”

In 2014, despite predictions that the issue would hurt him,  Sen. Graham resoundingly defeated a host of primary challengers on his way to re-election.  Regarding his primary victory and immigration, Sen. Graham said: “You’ve got to take a firm stance one way or the other…immigration did not hurt me.  I got credit for taking this on. I was all in, and I’m going to fight to solve this problem.”

In an early preview of his potential immigration focus on the 2016 campaign trail, Sen. Graham leaned into the issue of immigration at the Iowa Agricultural Forum in March 2015, calling for Republicans to “Be practical … Get it behind us”, referring to passing immigration reform, and also saying, “Strom Thurmond had four kids after he was 67.  If you’re not willing to do that, then we need immigration.”

On another trip to Iowa in late March, Graham stood by his immigration position:

“The immigration issue, when I get to explain myself, people seem to nod. Obviously, there’s going to be disagreement over immigration, but I’m pleased with the reaction I’ve gotten when I explain what I’m trying to do,” he said. “The personal story seems to connect.”

After Hillary Clinton announced her immigration proposals on May 5, 2015, Graham criticized her approach:

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is exploring a run for the Republican nomination, ripped into Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s proposal to expand President Barack Obama’s executive actions to additionally offer deportation relief to undocumented parents of young people brought to the U.S. illegally, who have been granted “deferred action” protections.

“She’s shown no leadership on this issue. She’s been a follower. I think it’s just political pandering,” Graham said. “No American should want the executive branch to do something this monumental by themselves.”

In an interview on May 7, 2015, Graham tied immigration reform to the “big hole [Republicans have] dug with Hispanics”:

“The only way we lose this election is if we beat ourselves and that is very possible, but we are getting creamed with non-white voters,” Graham, a likely 2016 presidential contender, told host Susan Page on USA Today’s “Capital Download.”

“We’ll lose,” he said, if the party doesn’t improve its prospects with minorities.

“I mean, we’ve got a big hole we’ve dug with Hispanics,” he added. “We’ve gone from 44 percent of the Hispanic vote [in the 2004 presidential election] to 27 percent [in 2012].

“You’ll never convince me … it’s not because of the immigration debate,” said Graham.

Graham also reiterated support for a path to citizenship:

“If I were president of the United States, I would veto any bill that did not have a pathway to citizenship,” Graham, 59, told Capital Download, USA TODAY’s weekly newsmaker series. “You would have a long, hard path to citizenship … but I want to create that path because I don’t like the idea of millions of people living in America for the rest of their lives being the hired help. That’s not who we are.”

On December 21st, Graham officially suspended his campaign for President.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)

While Mike Huckabee remains supportive of in-state tuition support for Dreamers, he has otherwise increasingly adopted harder-edged policies and rhetoric about immigrants and immigration.  Huckabee, in 2005, supported a bill providing in-state tuition for young immigrants (he still does) — though the bill never made it out of the legislature and so he never signed it — and he opposed a federal roundup of undocumented workers, leaving him exposed to attacks from the right.

Perhaps that’s why Huckabee, during his 2008 run, found it necessary to plagiarize immigration positions from none other than Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, who published his proposal in 2005. When Huckabee announced his nine-point immigration plan in 2008, he said it was “partially” modeled on a Krikorian editorial. But Huckabee then took credit for the plan during a Republican debate, and Mitt Romney called him out for lifting “whole sections of Krikorian’s editorial without quotes or direct attribution.”

The Washington Post later declared Huckabee and Krikorian’s plans “virtually identical” and said that Huckabee had “copied verbatim” at least 10 passages of the Krikorian plan. These passages included attrition-through-enforcement/self-deportation proposals forcing all undocumented immigrants to leave the country within four months.

As for Obama’s announcement last November, Huckabee hascalled executive action “wholly unconstitutional,” an “insult to the American people,” and compared it to the “tyranny of King George.” He continued:

As a former Governor, I understand that complex legislation requires working with both Democrats and Republicans, listening to all sides, compromising when possible, and ultimately executing the will of the consent of the governed. President Obama has never learned that valuable lesson in leadership. He is wading off into dangerous waters by acting alone yet again on something as important as immigration.

A key part of Huckabee’s opposition to executive action seemed to be President Obama’s usage of scripture in his speech announcing the move: “This is a president that uses the Bible when it suits him,” Huckabee later complained on Fox.

Recently, Huckabee has also said that he supports the DREAM Act (with a path to citizenship for DREAMers).

But, all of Huckabee’s earlier positions were cast aside during the Iowa Agricultural Summit on March 7, 2015. During the summit, when asked about immigration, Huckabee went full-bore anti-immigrant, adopting dog-whistle language. He said, “The question is: What do we do to stem the tide of people who are rushing over because they’ve heard that there’s a bowl of food just across the border?”

More on Huckabee’s shameful immigrant bashing from ThinkProgress:

At the Iowa Agriculture Summit on Saturday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said that the U.S. needs to secure its borders to prevent people from entering the country who do not have the right intentions and who may just be crossing the border to exploit the America’s “free” commodities.

During a conversation with mega GOP donor Bruce Rastetter, the former Fox News host suggested that while some immigrants are coming into America because they “embrace our way of life,” others are only here “because they heard there is a bowl of food just across the border” and other goodies like free drivers’ licenses, education, healthcare, and even the right to vote.

Not only do immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes annually — including $73 million to Arkansas — but they keep the very agricultural industry, the subject of the forum, in Iowa and across the country running.

Huckabee’s recent harder edge on immigration is in contrast to what he had to say in the fall of 2007 during a GOP primary debate: “I want to be clear: If someone is looking for a president who is going to have a mean spirit toward other human beings, I’m not their guy.  I’ll fix the borders, I’ll secure them, but what I won’t do is to do it because I’m angry at them for wanting to come here for the same reason that the rest of us love America.”

After Hillary Clinton announced her immigration proposals on May 5, 2015, Huckabee criticized her views and reiterated the “border security” talking point:

Former Arksnsas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Wednesday criticized Hillary Clinton for endorsing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

“You’ve got to have a secure border before you start talking about what you’re going to do,” Huckabee told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt during an interview in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Huckabee suspended his Presidential campaign following the Iowa caucuses on February 1st.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)

Despite past support for comprehensive immigration reform, Jindal has lurched to the right in recent years on a range of immigration policy stances. Jindal is currently leading one of the 25 states suing President Obama over executive action, so that’s an automatic point against him. This week he’s on a trade mission to Europe, where he is expected to speak about the importance of assimilation in immigration and how he doesn’t believe in “hyphenated Americans.” That probably explains why he supports English being the official language and wants government documents to be printed in English only. He also voted for a border fence when he was in the House in 2006.

Jindal is nominally in favor of immigration reform — the kind of immigration reform that won supermajority support in the 2013 Senate immigration bill — but he opposed S. 744. Really: Jindal wants more border security, supports a path to citizenship, and wants to reform the legal immigration system — all things that the Senate immigration bill did — but he opposed the bill because, like Rand Paul, he didn’t think it did enough to secure the border first. About a month after the Senate bill passed, Jindal wrote a paternalistic op-ed about how immigration reform can be done if people just secured the border hard enough:

The path to real reform is just not that complicated.

I can hear the critics now: They will say we can’t secure the border, it’s too hard. But that’s a straw man — the people who say we can’t secure the border are really saying that they don’t want to secure the border.

Jindal’s argument, of course, totally ignored the fact that people were working to reform immigration and direct even more security toward the border, in an effort that he did nothing to help with.

On executive action, Jindal has called Obama’s move a “cynical attempt to change the topic” after Democrats lost the 2014 election. He has called on Republicans to do “everything they can” to stop Obama on executive action, short of government shutdown: “no, we shouldn’t shut down the government, but absolutely Republicans should do everything they can to force the president to follow the law.” He also claimed that a government shutdown, if it happened, would be Obama’s fault (“no, the president shouldn’t shut down the government so that he can break the law”), a point that was ridiculed by Jon Stewart.

On May 1, 2015, Jindal expressed support for increased legal immigration and increased border security:

“Our immigration system is exactly backwards,” said Jindal, a possible 2016 GOP contender, during the National Review’s NRI Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C.

“We have an immigration system with a low wall and a narrow gate,” he continued. “We need one with a high wall and a broad gate.”

Jindal said the “low wall” referred to America’s porous borders and called illegal immigration a major security failure of President Obama’s.

“What’s the point of barbed wire if the gate stays open?” Jindal asked.

“What I want today is for the federal government to secure the border,” he added. “It is not hard. It is not incredibly difficult.”

Jindal’s “broad gate” is greater access to citizenship for legal immigrants.

At the Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting on June 19, 2015, Jindal was asked if he would end DACA and DAPA were he to become president.and DAPA. He replied:

Look, I think that we have got to stop all the unconstitutional executive orders, the end-runs around the law that this president has done. He may not like the law, but his job is not to change the law. Congress, we have a lot of folks running for office saying “give me a Republican majority and I will reign in this president.” I am disappointed they did not do that.

I am glad the courts at least for now have suspended some of his illegal executive orders, but obviously that is still on appeal. At the end of the day it is not complicated. They keep talking about comprehensive bills, comprehensive this or that. They need to secure our borders. That is what they keep telling us they are going to do, that is what the American people want, if the president wants to do something constructive, that is what he needs to do.

Despite his own immigrant heritage, Jindal said that the U.S. must insist that immigrants do a better job of assimilating into American culture to avoid problems facing Europe.

“We need to insist people that want to come to our country should come legally, should learn English and adopt our values, roll up their sleeves, and get to work,” Jindal, the Louisiana governor, said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We need to insist on assimilation. You know, in Europe they’re not doing that. They’ve got huge problems. Immigration without assimilation is invasion. That can weaken our country.”

Like many of his fellow Republican candidates, Jindal refuses to say what he would do about the more than 11 million immigrants estimated to be living in the U.S. illegally, although he predicted on CNN, “I think the American people will be pragmatic and compassionate about the people here.”

Jindal officially suspended his Presidential campaign on November 17th.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

+ View all our content on Sen. Rand Paul

While Rand Paul’s theory of winning the GOP nomination and the presidency is based on trying to “make the party bigger”and he has “urged the party to reach out to young voters and minorities,” his actual voting record and positioning on immigration belies that goal.

In fact, on immigration, Paul may be most famous for one thing — running away from DREAMers. Last August, the internet skewered Paul when the Senator abruptly put down his burger and bolted rather than talk to Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas of the DRM Action Group.

Paul somewhat has a reputation for saying the right things about immigration — he’s a self-styled moderate on the issue who has cajoled his party to “move beyond deportations” and adopt a “new attitude toward immigrants.” He’s warned the GOP of the electoral consequences if “there’s not the perception of empathy coming from the Republican party” and talked about how he’s “never met a new immigrant looking for a free lunch.”

For a time in 2013, it seemed like Paul was going to be a GOP champion for the Senate passing immigration reform. But he abruptly changed his mind, and voted against S. 744, because in his opinion it did not secure the border first. (Our response to him: the border is already secure, and Republicans use the idea that it should be secured further before enacting immigration reform as an excuse to never get around to reform.) More recently, Paul has said that he still supports immigration reform, albeit one that hinges on border security first and an expanded work visa program, with legalization but no citizenship for immigrants.

Aligning himself with the extreme position of Senator David Vitter and Rep. Steve King, Paul has embraced the idea of changing birthright citizenship.  Despite calling himself a constitutional conservative and being identified with libertarianism (an ideology that usually seeks to remove government from people’s lives, rather than putting government into the most sensitive and personal life experiences), Senator Paul co-sponsored a past attempt to amend the 14thAmendment and recently told the right-wing media outlet WorldNetDaily that he still wants to end birthright citizenship, stating that it makes the United States “a magnet for the world.”  As Right Wing Watch highlighted, Paul also noted in the same interview that “while it isn’t ‘fair’ to send DREAMers ‘back to Mexico,’ it also isn’t fair ‘to say they can stay and everybody else like them from Mexico can come also.’”

Paul is a noted opponent of executive action: he’s called on Republicans to take Obama to court over the move and filed his own bill to kill executive action. He also made the mistake of comparing executive action to internment camps, which earned him a stinging rebuke from Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who spent time in internment camps as a child.

Because of President Obama’s executive actions, in December, Congress only provided funding for the Department of Homeland Security through February 27, 2015. The House of Representatives passed DHS funding legislation, which included language to end DACA and the November 2014 executives actions. Democrats in the Senate blocked consideration of the House bill because of that anti-immigrant language. The Senate took four cloture votes to proceed to discussion of that bill. Paul voted to support the House bill all four times.

Paul officially suspended his Presidential campaign following the Iowa caucuses on February 3rd.

Former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)

Perry on immigration is perhaps most famous for saying during the 2012 primary debates that detractors of Texas’ state DREAM Act, which he signed into law in 2001, have no heart, but his record on immigration is more complicated than that. In fact, in his potential second run for the Republican nomination, Perry seems intent to emphasize his “toughness” on the border and on immigration – including by scapegoating the child migrant crisis of 2014 to shore up his hardline bona fides.

For one thing, he doesn’t support the federal DREAM Act — meaning that while Texas DREAMers are allowed to go to college and pay in-state tuition under Perry’s bill, they’re unable to pursue the full path to citizenship made possible by the federal DREAM Act. And even though he is successor to George W. Bush, who supported full immigration reform, Perry has never come out in favor of a pathway to citizenship — or even anything so much as legalization. (He has spoken repeatedly about a guest worker program.)

Perry is mostly a “secure the border first” hawk, and has a history of refusing to discuss any other aspect of immigration reform until the border is secure. (He even once said that “E-Verify would not make a hill of beans’ difference” unless the border was secure, something conservatives criticized him for.) Recently, he’s used the border to fear-monger, saying that there is “no clear evidence” that ISIS agents are coming across the border — yet expressing “great concern” anyway. Last summer, he sent 1000 National Guard troops to the border in response to the children’s crisis there, even though there was no function for the troops and no one had asked him to send them.

As Governor, Perry vetoed a driver’s license bill for immigrants and pushed an SB 1070-style law in Arizona. Perry initially opposed SB 1070 — but then supported a similar bill in Texas which would’ve cracked down on “sanctuary cities” and forced local law enforcement to question people about their immigration status. Police chiefs and sheriffs in Dallas, El Paso, Austin, and San Antonio strongly opposed the measure, which eventually died in the legislature, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro called Perry’s bill “easily the most anti-Latino agenda in more than a generation.”

As a presidential candidate in 2012, Perry threw his support behind SB 1070 again by saying that “when I’m the president of the United States, you’re not going to see me going after states like Arizona or Alabama, suing sovereign states for making decisions.” He was also endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio — as toxic a nod on immigration as you can get.

On executive action, Perry released a statement after Obama’s announcement saying “The president’s decision tonight will lead to more illegal immigration, not less. It is time for the president and Congress to secure our border, followed by meaningful reforms.” He also threatened to sue the administration over executive action, which Perry’s successor Greg Abbott has now done.

During the 2015 legislative session, Republicans in Texas are now considering repealing the state DREAM Act, which, as noted above, Governor Perry not only signed into law but defended during the 2012 campaign. On April 6, 2015,  The New York Times “First Draft” picked up on the potential for this to become an issue for 2016 contenders, particularly those with ties to Texas – noting that Perry is no longer defending the law he signed:

Reflecting how the tenor of the immigration debate has changed in a few short years, Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Mr. Perry, said he declined to weigh in on the repeal effort.

“It’s a decision for the Texas Legislature,” she said, adding that the law Mr. Perry signed was “an economic decision that Texas was forced to make because of the federal government’s failure to secure the border.”

Perry withdrew from the Presidential race on September 11th.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Rick Santorum has fully embraced an anti-immigrant and anti-immigration direction, staking out positions that explicitly attack both undocumented and legally residing immigrants.

Santorum was a vocal opponent of comprehensive immigration reform in 2006, voting against legislation supported by George Bush. At the time, he said that the bill created “incentives for illegal immigrants to raid the Social Security system and lie about their work history,” and proclaimed that the bill sent the message that “America has lost the will to enforce her laws, and her sovereignty is for sale–currently, for around $2,000.”

In the Senate, Santorum co sponsored amendments to reimburse states for using National Guard troops to secure the border. Before voting against the 2006 comprehensive immigration reform bill, Santorum attempted to add border enforcement provisions including a “triple-layer” border fence.

Santorum tried to use immigration as a wedge issue in his failed 2006 Senate reelection bid. Santorum ran several ads during his 2006 reelection campaign against Democrat Bob Casey on the topic of immigration, including his first ad of the campaign. Later in the campaign, he put up a web site that claimed that “13 million illegal aliens were counting on” Casey. He brought up immigration in town hall meetings throughout the state—including in Pittsburgh, even though, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “this region, by (Santorum’s) own analysis, has remarkably little immigration of any kind.”

More recently, Santorum has said that he (like Romney) would veto the Dream Act and dismissed concerns that deportations are difficult for families. As he told Fox News:

I don’t like to break up families, but you know the family can go back. We’re not sending them to Siberia. We’re not sending them to any kind of, you know, difficult country. They’re going to Mexico, which is a great country, a nice country. And they can go back like every other Mexican that wants to come to America and come here.

These comments are particularly curious considering that Santorum in 2013 advocated for a German family who had lost an asylum case and were facing deportation from the US. The Romeike family had left Germany so that they could home-school their children, which German law does not permit, and a federal judge did not see that as a basis for granting asylum. The family became undocumented, and Santorum’s above quote about deportations would imply that he had no qualms about sending them back.

As part of his stump speech this year, Santorum has begun attacking legal immigrants, parroting a debunked claim from the Center for Immigration Studies on how immigrants take American jobs. Here’s what he said at a Tea Party rally in South Carolina in January 2015:

What percentage of those net new jobs are held by people not born in this country? Half? Sixty? All of them. There are fewer native-born Americans working today than there was [sic] in 2000, in spite of 17 million more workers in the workforce. So when people tell me the problem is just illegal immigration, they’re wrong. They’re wrong…Part of the reason is that we’re bringing floods of legal, not illegal, legal immigrants into the country.”

In response to executive action, Santorum has criticized Obama for opening a “Pandora’s box for every president in the future” and acting “like a tyrant…he has acted against the Constitution and he has thrown the Republicans and he has thrown the country a curveball, we’ve never dealt with anything like this before.” Santorum added, “The president has just slapped in the face every House and Senate member, saying we don’t need you anymore.”

Santorum officially suspended his Presidential campaign following the Iowa caucuses on February 3rd.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)

On the 2016 campaign trail, Scott Walker has distanced himself from his past support for a pathway to citizenship and immigration reform in a series of muddled, and contradictory, pronouncements. His most recent attempt to clarify his stance has led him to embrace the discredited, offensive, and unworkable “report to deport” concept.  Even more recently, in April of 2015, Walker allied himself with Jeff Sessions and the radical idea of limiting legal immigration. He also wants undocumented immigrants “to go back to their country of origin and get in line behind everybody else who’s waiting.”  This latest policy stance, which  seems a mix of incoherent and radical, positions Walker to the right of Mitt Romney from 2012.

Walker is currently leading one of the 26 states suing President Obama over executive action, so that’s an automatic point against him. Upon joining the lawsuit, he said:

I think the Republicans in Washington need to take the president to court. They need to force this issue. I think it’s bigger than the subject matter of immigration.

His spokeswoman also added:

Obama’s executive action should be repealed, it isn’t fair to hardworking Americans and to those who have waited in line to do things the right way and only incentivizes further illegal behavior.

Walker’s Wisconsin stands to gain $19 million over five years in increased tax revenues from immigrants with DAPA status, yet he wants to overturn executive action in order to drive people back into the shadows and make them more deportable.

On other immigration positions, Walker has been all over the place. In 2001 when Walker was a state assemblyman, he signed a bill supporting in-state tuition for undocumented students. That bill was eventually vetoed by then-Gov. Scott McCallum. A different bill on the issue was passed in 2009, which Walker repealed in 2011. In 2006 as a Milwaukee County Executive, he signed a resolution supporting the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill.

In 2010 he said he would sign an Arizona-style anti-immigrant bill if it came to his desk; by 2012 he was saying that “I think that it would be a huge distraction for us in this state.” In 2013 he briefly appeared to support a path to citizenship, saying:

“It’s all is about the 11 million [undocumented immigrants],” Walker said. “You hear some people talk about border security and a wall and all that. To me, I don’t know that you need any of that if you had a better, saner way to let people into the country in the first place.”

Walker added: “If people want to come here and work hard in this country, I don’t care if you come from Mexico or Canada or Ireland or Germany or South Africa or anywhere else. I want them here.”

In the same interview, Walker said “I think they need to fix things for people who are already here, find some way to deal with that.” When asked specifically about the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, and whether he could “envision a world where with the right penalties and waiting periods and meet the requirements where those people could get citizenship,” Walker replied “sure … I mean I think that makes sense.”

But soon, he walked that back, saying “on immigration I talked about fixing the legal immigration system, not going beyond that.” Last summer Walker bemoaned the increase in children coming to the border, saying that the thought of children facing such dangers almost brought him “to tears.” Walker was not much help when it came to taking in and sheltering the children, however, saying that the federal government should find a way to deal with them and that housing them could eventually “drain the entire system.”

In early 2015, he said this about immigration reform:

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.

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.

But, Walker clarified his views on on March 1, 2015 during an interview with FOX News. Walker disavowed his earlier support for a path to citizenship and adopted the rhetoric of the anti-immigrant crowd:

“I don’t believe in amnesty,” said Walker, who finished second Saturday in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll for potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates. “We need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works — a legal immigration system that works.”

Walker, as noted, also is among the 26 Republican governors and Attorney Generals who have joined in a lawsuit challenging the president’s 2014 executive action that defers deportation for millions of illegal immigrants.

Between the comments and the lawsuit Walker has decided to appeal to the nativist base in his party.

In March of 2015, Walker found himself in a controversy after hiring Republican operative Liz Mair. In January, Mair, who is an advocate for immigration reform, tweeted about Steve King’s forum in Iowa, “In other news, I see Iowa is once again embarrassing itself, and the GOP, this morning. Thanks, guys.” After she was hired, Iowa officials complained, which led to Mair’s dismissal.

On March 26, 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that Walker expressed support for a path to citizenship at a private dinner in New Hampshire:

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 and haven’t been reported previously, vary from the call he has made in recent weeks for “no amnesty”—a phrase widely employed by people who believe immigrants who broke the law by entering the country without permission shouldn’t be awarded legal status or citizenship.

The changing positions by Mr. Walker, a likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, show the difficulty that some in the Republican Party face as they try to appeal both to the conservative GOP primary electorate—which largely opposes liberalizing immigration laws—and business leaders and general election voters who have been more supportive of granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.

That latest flip of Walker’s previous flop garnered immediate attention from political reporters:

Walker in ’13: Yeah, citizenship makes sense Walker on 3/1/15: “My view has changed” Walker on 3/13/15: Yeah, citizenship makes sense

— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) March 26, 2015

NBC’s Murray also noted on twitter, “This immigration story is VERY problematic for Scott Walker – esp after he tried to clean it up earlier.”

Walker headed to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas on March 27, 2015 to tour the border, and attempted to extricate himself from his self-created political predicament with yet another “clarification” on his immigration stance. According to Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune, Gov. Walker said: “if somebody wants to be a citizen, they need to go back to their country of origin, get in line, no preferential treatment … In terms of what to do beyond that, again, that’s something we got to work with Congress on.”

In other words, Walker seems to be endorsing the ridiculous “report to deport” concept. The “report to deport” idea has been touted before by Republican politicians, most notably by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and former Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) a decade ago. According to AV’s Frank Sharry, “ Walker’s touting of ‘report to deport’ represents a further embrace of hardline and unworkable immigration policy at odds with his past endorsement of sensible reform. Politically, it might as well have the Mitt Romney 2012 seal of approval, as it’s tilting dangerously toward the infamous ‘self-deportation’ concept. Not only does the transparent pandering to hardline primary voters threaten the eventual Republican nominee’s chances of retaking the White House, but it goes beyond immigration to raise larger questions and concerns of character, consistency and leadership.”

On April 9, 2015, Walker appeared on Sean Hannity’s FOX News show where he doubled-down on his “border security” talking point, “If the United States was being attacked in one of our water ports on the East or West Coast, we’d be sending in our military forces, and yet we’re facing some of the same challenges with international criminal organizations, the cartels that are trafficking not only drugs but weapons and humans, and we need to step up and be aggressive,” Walker continued. “that means securing the border with infrastructure, with technology, with personnel and the federal government’s got to lead the way. We can’t expect the border states to do this alone.”

“You can’t be talking about anything else until you do that,” Walker concluded. “Once you do that, then we can talk about enforcing the laws — by using an effective E-verify system for all employers…and making sure that any legal immigration system — no amnesty — any legal immigration system we go forward with is one that ultimately has to protect American workers and make sure American wages are going up.”

On April 20, 2015, Walker aligned himself with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) by taking stand against legal immigration – while appearing to call for deportations of the undocumented immigrants:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, pledged to protect American workers from the economic effects, not only of illegal immigration but also of a massive increase in legal immigration.

During an interview with Glenn Beck, Walker became the first declared or potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate to stake out a position on immigration fully in line with that of Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). He also noted that he has been working with Chairman Sessions on the issue to learn more about it.

Walker is now the only potential or declared GOP presidential candidate to discuss the negative effects of a massive increase in legal immigration on American workers:

In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying—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.

Walker discussed how in the past he did support amnesty, but says he doesn’t anymore, because he has learned more about the issue. That shows him to be one of the most open-minded GOP candidates on such matters.

In the same interview, Walker espoused support for E-Verify. He also reiterated his opposition to “amnesty” – and doesn’t have a plan for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country beyond “go home,” because there is no “line” for them to get in.

Walker also discussed the need for interior enforcement:

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.

Based on thees 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. As Frank Sharry noted,  “Scott Walker’s new positions make Mitt Romney’s immigration agenda look moderate by comparison.”

On April 22nd, America’s Voice did a deeper dive into Walker’s remarks: Unpacking Scott Walker’s Immigration Stance: What Happens to the 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants, which noted:

the undocumented here can go home and apply the right way, says Scott Walker. This statement displays enormous ignorance.  The fact is our system is dysfunctional because for almost all of the undocumented works in America there is no line to get into.  Not here, not there.  Yes, there are a couple of controversial temporary visa programs (H2A and H2B) that allow workers in for months at a time before having to return to their countries of origin.  But for those able to be sponsored by U.S. employers and seeking full-time low-skilled employment, there are 5,000 permanent visas a year.  This is hardly enough to deal with the 8 million currently working in America. In addition, precious few have relatives in a position to sponsor them under our family immigration system.  But even more important is that, under current law, once a settled undocumented immigrant returns to their country of origin they are subject to a 10 year bar from the country as a penalty for having stayed in the U.S. without authorization for more than a year.

In other words, the deal Walker is offering the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America is this: you will no longer be able to keep your job; we will try to fine and jail any employer who hires you in the future; there’s no way for you to get legal status here in the U.S.; so leave everything you’ve built here and go back to your country of origin so you can apply for non-existent visas, which you are eligible for after your 10-year ban from the country.

After Hillary Clinton announced her immigration reform proposals on May 5, 2015, Walker personally tweeted his disapproval:

Walker has reinvented himself on immigration, rapidly moving from pro-reform pragmatist to anti-immigrant crusader in the mold of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).  More a jumble of focus group-tested soundbites than a serious policy stance, Walker’s newly-minted hardline immigration vision is a bizarre mix of the radical and incoherent. Nevertheless, Gov. Walker still stands by some of his past pro-immigration policies – if you’re a millionaire investor.  As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:

Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to turn himself into an anti-immigration crusader as he gears up to run for president in 2016.  But there’s one federal visa program you won’t hear him attack.  It’s the controversial and deeply troubled immigrant investor program.  The program — known as EB-5 — puts wealthy foreigners on the path to U.S. citizenship if they invest at least $500,000 in an American commercial project that will create or preserve 10 jobs.

So let’s get this straight: Gov. Walker is against immigration solutions that would provide a way forward for millions of hard-working undocumented immigrants settled in America, but is for immigration programs that sell visas to wealthy immigrants who still live overseas.  Even more absurd, on May 19, 2015, Walker took to FOX News to claim his changing views don’t count as a flip-flop, offering a non-sensical rational:

A flip would be someone who voted on something and did something different,” Walker said. “These are not votes… I don’t have any impact on immigration as a governor. I don’t have any impact as a former county official. I would be if I were to run and ultimately be elected as president.

It be clear, Walker has flipped and flopped on immigration (except for millionaires.) During an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, published on June 3, Walker was asked about his immigration views. The reporter, Alex Leary, asked key questions, including about Walker’s plans for the undocumented. The candidate’s answers were described as “vague” and “uneven”:

Scott Walker said he adamantly opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but was vague in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times about what should be done with the 11 million people already in the U.S. “My belief is that because the system is so broken, we need to do the other things I mention before we can even begin to start talking about what the president and the next Congress can do,” Walker said, referring to his call for more border security and enforcement of existing law. “Until we deal with those other issues, any potential solution is largely irrelevant.” Walker’s comments continued an uneven response to the vexing issue of immigration since he emerged as a presidential hopeful. The Wisconsin governor once supported a path to citizenship, but earlier this year veered to the right, then backed off a bit. The shifting positions have left many wonder what exactly does he think should be done.

The Tampa Bay Times interview summed up Walker and immigration: Shifting positions. Uneven response. Vague.  On July 6, 2015, The New York Times reported on another example of Walker possibly saying one thing about supporting immigration reform in private, then denying it when the news becomes public:

Last Wednesday, Stephen Moore, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who is an outspoken supporter of an immigration overhaul, described a recent telephone call with Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in which he said Mr. Walker had assured him he had not completely renounced his earlier support for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. “‘I’m not going nativist, I’m pro-immigration,’” Mr. Walker said, according to Mr. Moore’s account of the call to a reporter for The New York Times. On Sunday, after three days of pressure from Mr. Walker’s aides, Mr. Moore said that he had “misspoken” when recounting his call with Mr. Walker — and that the call had never actually taken place.

As Dara Lind noted at Vox, “All Republican candidates are struggling with the donor/voter divide on immigration, but Walker is unusually bad at finessing it.”

While campaigning in Iowa on July 19, 2015, Walker was confronted by an immigrant family from Wisconsin about his role in blocking DAPA and expanded DACA. When the family first tried to confront Walker over his opposition to DAPA, he claimed, “I’m a Governor, I don’t have anything to do with it,” before rushing away with aides.

But when the Republican Governors and Attorneys General filed their lawsuit in December 2014, Walker issued a statement in support of blocking the President’s immigration actions, saying “the immigration system is broken, but this is an issue that should be addressed through collaborative federal action, not unilateral action by the President.”

Later in the day, Walker talked to the same family. Bursting into tears, seven-year-old Louis bravely told Walker about what is perhaps the most terrifying fear in the heart of every child with undocumented parents: Coming home from school to find their parents gone.

But, rather than express an ounce of compassion or a simple understanding that his lawsuit will tear families like Louis’s apart, the “family values” candidate directed a GOP talking point about a lawless President at the child, apparently remembering that he was, in fact, a plaintiff in the lawsuit blocking relief.

 Other Candidates

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

As is true on many issues, Newt Gingrich’s history on immigration is complicated and often contradictory.  During his run of the presidency in the 2012 election cycle, Gingrich outlined an immigration plan that involved legalization for the undocumented immigrants already here, though not citizenship.  As our executive director Frank Sharry has said about him, “Gingrich, while hardly a reformer in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, at least deigns to acknowledge the reality that it is neither practical nor humane to drive 11 million people out of the country.” And as Gingrich’s opponent in the 2012 GOP primaries, Michele Bachmann, once sniped, “He probably has the most liberal position on illegal immigration of any of the candidates [then] in the race.” Gingrich’s immigration plan is the “red card” proposal that would give immigrants already here some form of legal status. As Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, once criticized, “It virtually guarantees that we create second-class status for workers and their families — lawful but with no real rights.” Unlike real immigration reform, Gingrich’s plan would do nothing to reform the legal immigration system. And it would involve amending the Constitution in order to dispose of birthright citizenship, something Giovagnoli called “eradicating rights.” Gingrich isn’t above fear-mongering when it comes to immigration. He’s expressed fears that immigrants could bring ebola into the US. He once vowed to build an entire US-Mexico border in a single year. And last summer, when President Obama announced that he was delaying his plan to announce executive action until after the 2014 election, Gingrich called the move “cowardly” even though he also expressed his belief that such an action was “unconstitutional” and indicative of a “Venezuelan-style-anything-I-want-is-legal-presidency.” On how Republicans should respond to executive action: “Congress should only approve very short spending bill to set up fight in January on Obama unconstitutional power grab,” Gingrich tweeted. “He must be stopped now.” He also believes the next president will be a Republican who must undo executive action:

We should have prepared executive orders replacing all of Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders across the board. And on the first day the new president is sworn in, he should sign all of those orders so you could literally wipe out a wave of Obama executive orders in 24 hours.

Gingrich did not explain how any candidate is supposed to get elected on such a platform.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK)

Palin was recently added to this list after she remarked that she was “seriously interested” in running for President — though that seriousness has already been questioned, especially after her “painful” and “incoherent” speech at the 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit. Once upon a time, Palin supported immigration reform with a path to citizenship. When she was a 2008 vice presidential candidate speaking to Univision, Palin said that she understood the realities of the immigration debate:

“There is no way that in the U.S. we would round up every illegal immigrant — there are about 12 million of the illegal immigrants — not only economically is that just an impossibility but that’s not a humane way anyway to deal with the issue that we face with illegal immigration,” Palin said. When asked if she supported “a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” Palin responded that she did. “I do because I understand why people would want to be in America. To seek the safety and prosperity, the opportunities, the health that is here,” Palin said. “It is so important that yes, people follow the rules so that people can be treated equally and fairly in this country.”

After the Senate immigration bill passed in 2013, however, Palin slammed fellow Republicans who supported the bill:

“A matter of a lack principle and respect for the rule of law,” Palin said about Republicans supporting immigration reform Saturday on Fox News. “This was an absolute betrayal of working-class Americans who do respect the rule of law and legal immigrants who have come here and stood in law, and paid their dues if you will, and become new Americans.” “It’s an absolute betrayal of the will of the people and the rule of the law,” she added. “You’ve just abandoned the Reagan Democrats with this amnesty bill,” Palin recently wrote on her Facebook page. “You disrespect Hispanics with your assumption that they desire ignoring the rule of law.”

She opposes the DREAM Act: The DREAM Act kind of usurps that–the system that is a legal system to make sure that immigrants who want to be here legally, working hard, producing and supplying revenue and resources for their families, that they’re able to do that right and legally. Unfortunately, the DREAM Act doesn’t accomplish that. Supports laws like Arizona’s SB 1070:

It’s time for Americans across this great country to stand up and say ‘We’re all Arizonans now and, in clear unity, we say, ‘Mr. President, do your job, secure our border.’

On executive action, Palin has said that Obama is “spoiled” and acting like “an overgrown little boy”. She’s also said that he is “endangering the nation,” and, more bizarrely, that “his unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’”