One other thing I missed as I was heading out to the mountains last week was the official announcement of Scott Walker as our roughly 238th presidential candidate on the Republican side. Unlike some of the other, shall we say… “overly ambitious” folks tossing their hats in the ring, Walker was obviously a serious contender and had been all but officially running for some time now. Some, like National Review’s Deroy Murdock, are painting Walker as the GOP’s Obi-Wan Kenobi… our last, best hope. His current position in the national polls indicates that this is a theory shared by a number of primary voters, since he’s sitting solidly within striking distance behind only Trump and Bush.
For the most part, I can’t complain about that. There’s a lot to like about Walker, both in terms of message and the substance of his record in Wisconsin. I’ve had the occasional disagreements with him on issues such as the Renewable Fuel Standard, but none of us are ever going to find a candidate we agree with 100% of the time on all things. But if there’s one nagging question which remains for me, it’s on the always critical issue of immigration. (A subject which I think most of you would agree is even more critical today than it was even a few years ago.) Walker’s record on this subject has been under examination by a lot of reporters this summer and it frankly is enough to give me pause.
We can start that journey by going back to 2002 when Walker was just beginning his tenure as County Executive for Milwaukee County. At that time, as reported by National Review, he signed a resolution in support of comprehensive immigration reform and came out repeatedly in support of legal status for illegal aliens.
Resolution advocates for “comprehensive immigration reform” that would ensure “greater opportunity for undocumented working immigrants to obtain legal residency in the United States.”
The, in 2006, during his first run at the Governor’s mansion, Walker backed a proposal from McCain and Kennedy which would have turned immigration policy on its head. (Via Politico)
“But the likely presidential candidate apparently stood on another side of that debate as the Milwaukee County Executive in 2006. That year, he signed a resolution calling on Congress to pass the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, a bill authored by John McCain and Teddy Kennedy that was denounced at the time by conservatives as ‘amnesty’ — and remains anathema to party activists.”
Walker lost that election, but as we all saw he went on to win in 2010. His position on immigration didn’t seem to change, though, and he was still singing pretty much the same tune as recently as 2013. At that time he was still pushing a pathway to citizenship. (From Politico)
“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Friday that he supports a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants but said that people who are waiting in line should have ‘first preference.’ ‘You’ve got to find a way to say that people who are in line right now have first preference,’ the Republican governor said at POLITICO’s third annual State Solutions Conference in Washington. Walker said that in addition to not having enough visas for immigrants is that the system in general is broken. ‘We just have a broken system. And to me, if somebody wants to come in and live the American dream and work hard … we should have a system that works and let’s people in,’ Walker told POLITICO’s Jonathan Martin at the event. He added: ‘The vast majority of people want to come here for the right reasons. They want to live the American dream.'”
Then, in just the last year (and well after it became clear that he was seriously looking at a presidential bid) the Governor seemed to have his Come to Jesus moment, as he described it to Fox News’ Chris Wallace. (Reported in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal)
Chris Wallace: But you said you supported [comprehensive reform].
Walker: And my view has changed. I’m flat out saying it. I’m — candidates can say that. Sometimes they don’t.
Wallace: So, you’ve changed from 2013?
Nothing wrong with that. I’ve had my own views on some issues change considerably over the years from the pie in the sky (and frankly, uninformed) positions I held when I was younger. And if Walker looked over the problems with illegal aliens and the cost being paid by the nation as a result of these dangerously flawed policies, good for him. I’m happy to have him on board with the good guys. But was he really serious? This is the year when some of the nagging questions really popped up. Take, for example, the comments he is alleged to have made in New Hampshire. (From the Wall Street Journal)
“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.”
But by April he was back on the hard line, secure the borders and enforce the law track. (Bloomberg)
“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… 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.”
There were some other instances of varying credibility in terms of the reporting. People spent a fair amount of time talking up the comments he allegedly made to Stephen Moore on the subject, but that report was later walked back. With that in mind, I’m not gong to assign a lot of weight to that report, but the private donor meeting in New Hampshire is troubling.
So what will Walker really do about immigration if elected? It’s not enough for me to discount him entirely and I think he deserves the chance to clear this up for us during the debates. Even if he’s shaky on the subject, I certainly wouldn’t rule out supporting him if he’s the eventual nominee. There is still, as I said at the beginning, a lot to like about Walker. He could use a bit more polish in terms of running a campaign and dealing with the national press, but he’ll continue to get that workout as he moves forward. If nothing else, he should really turn around the National Labor Relations Board.
Still, this history on immigration is enough to put me on edge a bit. Let’s wait and see what he’s got to say on the debate stage and in his upcoming stump speeches. Food for thought, though.