Is there any Republican anywhere, whether running for dog catcher or president of the United States, who cops to being for “amnesty”? McCain doesn’t. Lindsey Graham doesn’t. Marco Rubio certainly doesn’t. All of them take great pains to distinguish what they consider amnesty — unconditional legalization for illegals, no questions asked — from what comprehensive immigration reform requires as part of the legalization process (learn English, back taxes, waiting period, etc). Define “amnesty” strictly enough and most liberals probably aren’t for it either. Border hawks, on the other hand, typically define “amnesty” in one of two ways. Some consider any path to citizenship — or even legal status — a form of amnesty regardless of the conditions imposed because it rewards someone who broke the law by giving them what they want, i.e. the right to reside in the United States. Other hawks (like me) focus on one key condition, namely, significant improvements to border security. Do that first, measurably, before any form of legal status is granted, and then legalization can follow. If you don’t, if legalization is independent of increased security — the fatal flaw of the Gang of Eight bill — then you’re setting yourself up to repeat this charade 25 years from now with another mass legalization of illegals who’ve entered in the interim.
Long story short, no one’s for “amnesty,” even people like McCain, Graham, and Rubio who are, by my definition, most assuredly for it. Where does Scott Walker, potential GOP nominee, stand? Hint: Not for “amnesty.”
Towards the end of the interview, Bannon noted that “Amnesty is about the sovereignty of the country.” But, he asked Walker, “the Washington Post said earlier that you’re pro-pathway to citizenship.”
“See now that’s where they take it out of context,” Walker said in response. “I’ve not said there should be amnesty in this country. I don’t believe that. I don’t support the legislation being kicked around. What I’ve said repeatedly is we need to fix the immigration system, but fix the legal system. So if people want to come in this country we should have a legal immigration system.”
Bannon then interjected: “And take care of the borders and everything we have to do first.”
Walker concurred, saying that any immigration reform efforts should “fix the front door.”
What does he have in mind for fixing the front door? I haven’t seen him comment on this subject at length (why would any Republican governor want to handle this grenade when he doesn’t have to?), but twice already this year he’s made remarks that make it sound like he’s more interested in the legalization side of the equation than the security part. Ed wrote about it back in February and I noted it when it came up again in July. In both cases, but especially in the latter (watch the video below), he emphasized that a more permissive legal immigration process would solve, in some large part, America’s illegal immigration process. I … suppose that’s true. If you line up the Border Patrol at the border to hand out visas to people as they stream across, that would indeed technically reduce illegal immigration to zero. If you’re going to make the requirements for entry so easy that people can have visas more or less on demand, though, how is that different from legalizing them en masse after they’ve already arrived, like the Gang of Eight wants to do? It’s one thing to say that people in other countries with advanced degrees, entrepreneurial wherewithal, or scientific/engineering training should have a quick pass through the turnstile, but Walker doesn’t seem to be keying on that distinction. He actually says of increased border security at 1:30 in the vid, “I don’t know if you need any of that if you had a better, saner way to let people into the country in the first place.” Not even McCain or Graham would go that far, I’d bet.
But maybe none of this matters. There’s already a lightning rod for border hawks in the probable 2016 field in the form of Marco Rubio, and none of the rest of the field with the notable exception of Ted Cruz is likely to deviate greatly from the Walker line here — pay lip service to border control while calling for a much easier legalization process, if only to try to win back some of the Latino voters the GOP’s lost over the years. In fact, if Jeb Bush is right about the House passing immigration reform next year (and I think he is), this whole subject will be even easier for the candidates in 2016. They’ll criticize the bill for its failures in improving border security to impress righties and praise it for its attempt to find a humane solution to the limbo state illegals find themselves in to impress Latinos. Only Cruz might pound the table about it. Emphasis on “might.”
Exit question: He says in the excerpt above that his support for a path to citizenship was taken out of context. Was it? Watch at 2:15 below. Seems pretty clear. It’s out of context only in the sense that his focus is on making it easier for people to get here legally in the first place, not on the 11 million illegals who are already here. But when asked specifically about the latter, his response is straightforward.