Thursday, February 23, 2012

Duel in the Desert: Republican Candidates Spar on Immigration In Arizona

The four remaining Republican Presidential contenders, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul, debated in Arizona last night. Here is the complete transcript to the debate. This is the portion dealing with immigration, which includes no real surprises -- support for the border fence, agreement with Arizona's approach to immigration enforcement, criticism of the Obama administration, etc..

QUESTION: Gentleman my name is Jerry Lott (ph) and I'm from Key Man, Arizona. It seems that Arizona has come under federal attack just for wanting to secure its southern border. What will you and your administrations do to fix the situation? To secure our border and to protect the American people?

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, I want to go to you first on this one. You're from a border state. As you answer Gary's question, a recent federal analysis says the cost of secure fencing, which they have a good deal of the border along this state, would cost about $3 million per mile. Is that a good investment? Money well spent?

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Probably not, but we can do a better job, and the best way to do it is forget about the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and deal with our borders, put our resources on this border. This is what we need. But we need to change the rules. We reward illegal immigration. They get benefits, Texas hospitals, and, you know, schools are going bankrupt.

The restraints on the states, and Obama's restraints on the states to deal with it. Why is it if an illegal comes across the border and they go on private property, why isn't that trespassing? And why don't you have the right to stop it? So but there should be no mandates from the federal government about what you must do under the 9th and 10th. There would be essentially none.

But the federal government does have a responsibility for these borders. And I just hate to see all these resources -- I think that we should have much more immigration service on the border to make it easier -- it's hard to even get to visit this country. We're losing a lot of visitors and workers that could come to this country because we have an inefficient immigration service.

And then that invites the illegal. We have to deal -- we can't endorse the illegal, but the program today endorses the illegal problems. And a weak economy is always detrimental, too, because of the welfare state. We have welfare at home and some jobs go begging, we have jobs going begging in this country in the midst of the recession, has to do with the economy.

You can't ignore the economy. But also the welfare state, allowing immigrants to come over and then get the benefits -- if you subsidize something, you get more of. So there's a lot we can do and should do and certainly this president is not doing a very good job.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker, the fence has been a point of contention in the race. And one of your high-profile supporters, a gentleman who's been up here during this campaign, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, is here tonight. He said this: if you build a 30-foot wall from El Paso to Brownsville, the 35-foot ladder business gets really good.

You signed a pledge to construct a double fence. Why is Governor Perry wrong?

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's not wrong. They'd have to have two 35-foot ladders because it's a double fence. (LAUGHTER)

Look, the fact is I helped Duncan Hunter pass the first fence bill in San Diego when I was Speaker of the House. San Diego and Tijuana are the most densely populated border. It turned out it worked. It worked dramatically. Duncan and I would be glad to testify. He's former chairman of the national -- of the Defense Committee -- how much it worked.

However, it stopped. It stopped in part because there was a wetlands. It turned out none of the illegal immigrants cared about wetlands policy. Then you had to go and build around the wetlands, which we did. The further we have gone with the fence, the fewer the people have broken into California.

Now, the thing that's fascinating, though, John, is you quoted a government study of how much it would cost. That's my earlier point. If you modernize the federal government so it's competent, you could probably do it for 10 percent of the cost of that study.

The fact is --

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: -- what I would do, I would -- I have -- I have a commitment at newt.org, I would -- to finish the job by January 1, 2014, I would initiate a bill that would waive all federal regulations, requirement and studies.

I would ask Governor Brewer here, I would ask Governor Martinez, Governor Brown, and Governor Perry to become the co-leaders in their state. We would apply as many resources as are needed to be done by January 1 of 2014, including, if necessary -- there are 23,000 Department of Homeland Security personnel in the D.C. area.

I'm prepared to move up to half of them to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This is a doable thing.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor Romney, the border security is part of the equation, what to do about whether it's 8 million or 11 million illegal immigrants in the country now is another part of the equation. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's with us tonight from Maricopa County -- he's in the audience -- he told me --

(APPLAUSE)

KING: -- he told me this week here in Mesa -- these are his words -- "it's called political garbage, if you will, to not arrest illegals already in this country."

You've talked to the governor about self-deportation, if businesses do their job, asking for the right documents, the people will leave. What about arresting? Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates? ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here that says -- that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e- verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally.

And as a result of e-verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing.

(APPLAUSE)

And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. I'll also complete the fence. I'll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers, and to check E- Verify. And if an employer hires someone that has not gone through E- Verify, they're going to get sanctioned just like they do for not paying their taxes.

You do that, and just as Arizona is finding out, you can stop illegal immigration. It's time we finally did it.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum, we had the conversation about the border and the fence. Governor Romney talks about E-Verify, making sure business is doing their part of the equation.

What about the individual? You said in our last debate employers should be sanctioned, as Governor Romney just said, if they hire illegal immigrants. About a quarter of all workers in private households are undocumented.

What about the homeowner who hires somebody as a household cleaning worker, as a nanny, perhaps? Does that person -- if you're going to be consistent, have enforcement across the board, should that person be sanctioned?

SANTORUM: I'm not going to require homeowners to do E-Verify. I think that's one step too far. But I think what we need to do is to give law enforcement the opportunity to do what they're doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government, which is to allow folks to enforce the law here in this country, to allow people who are breaking the law or suspicious of breaking the law to be able to be detained and deported if they're found here in this country illegally, as well as those who are trying to seek employment.

This is enforcing not just upon the employer, but on those who are here illegally and trying to do things that are against the law, like seeking employment here. KING: It's a tough policy question, obviously, and this state has been part of the driving force. It also becomes -- especially for four gentlemen who would like to be the next president of the United States, it's a difficult political question in the sense that the Latino population is the fastest-growing demographic in our country.

And some Republicans -- some Republicans -- Marco Rubio, for example, the senator from Florida that all of you have complimented, said -- could be a leading force in your administration if you're elected -- he said this recently. He says he worries that some of the rhetoric used by Republican politicians on this issue has been harsh, intolerable, inexcusable.

Mr. Speaker, is he right?

GINGRICH: I don't know who he's referring to, so I'm not going to comment in general on a statement. Is there somebody somewhere who's done that? Sure.

Was it also intolerable for President Obama to go to El Paso and make a totally demagogic speech in which he fundamentally -- no.

(APPLAUSE)

The great failure here -- I voted in 1986 for the bill which was supposed to solve all this, which Ronald Reagan solved -- signed. And in Reagan's diary, he says, I signed this bill because we have to get control of the border and we have to have an employer-sanctioned program with a guest worker program.

Now, all of us who voted for that bill got shortchanged on everything we were supposed to get. President Bush couldn't get it through. President Obama can't get it through.

I believe you cannot pass a single large comprehensive bill, the 2,700-page kind of bill you described. I think you've got to go one step at a time.

The first step is to control the border. I don't believe anybody who's here illegally -- and I talked last night, for example, with folks who are of Hispanic background from Nogales who are in the import-export business dealing with Mexico every day. They don't want a border that's closed, they want a border that's controlled, that has easy access for legality and impossible access for illegality. And that's the model that I think you can talk about in my community of any ethnic background in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

KJ

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