(Read many more details of what the candidates said about immigration on Chris' excellent live blog at: https://www.numbersusa.com/blog/live-blog-gop-hopefuls-face-first-debate)
So much for the RNC's command after the 2012 election that the next round of GOP candidates had to embrace comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).
None of the 17 candidates tonight dared speak for CIR and its doubling of legal immigration along with an amnesty.
Only Jeb Bush in the two debates spoke up for legalization of millions of illegal aliens, and only after a very strong listing of how tough he would be on future illegal immigration.
Nobody repeated the CIR mantra that America needs lots of immigrants to do the jobs that Americans won't do -- or aren't smart enough to do.
No talk of stapling green cards to the college degrees of foreign students.
No insults of Hispanic and other immigrant communities by suggesting that the way to get their votes would be to laud illegal behavior and flood their occupations with more foreign workers to exacerbate the low wages and poverty that disproportionately affect them.
Instead, all statements -- including Bush's -- about immigration supported the concept that immigration policies exist to protect the jobs, wages and physical security of a nation's citizens, not the interests of corporations or citizens of other countries.
Both debates tonight featured clear statements about the large volume of legal immigration and the need for the numbers to be set based on the interests of American workers. There were no objections.
The overwhelming theme of statements was that the failure to end illegal immigration was a prime example of why Americans are so frustrated with the federal government. There were multiple endorsements and no objections to using the E-Verify system to keep foreign citizens from illegally obtaining U.S. jobs, to stopping sanctuary cities from protecting criminal foreign citizens, to stopping illegal border crossers and visa overstayers and to overturning Pres. Obama's executive amnesties.
CREATING A NEW MAINSTREAM OF DISCOURSE
We know that not every candidate has pledged to follow through on all themes that prevailed tonight.
But having so much buy-in without people stating countervailing opinions begins to create a new mainstream of discourse and thinking.
We ran a NumbersUSA ad tonight that emphasized the importance of focusing on the numbers in immigration policy at a time the millions of Americans can't find a full-time job. I thought the ad might be a good wake up call about a concept missing from the debates. Instead, the ad ended up re-enforcing one of the central themes of the debate. (See the ad here: https://www.numbersusa.com/news/numbersusa-ad-presidential-debate-asks-c...)
SOME QUICK THOUGHTS ABOUT INDIVIDUAL STATEMENTS
Here are some of the things I was tweeting during the debates (yes, in smaller bites):
The first debate for the seven lowest-polling candidates had been labeled "the happy hour debate." Its substance made for truly a happy hour for American workers as most candidates pledge to stop Obama work permits for illegals to compete for all U.S. jobs.
Perry and Santorum set the bar high for the later "main-event" candidates by reminding Americans of why any nation has immigration laws. Candidates have often talked about "what" they would do to control immigration, but these two focused on "why" they would do it. For Perry, it was the physical safety of the members of our national community. Until security is proven, he said, Americans have no reason to believe Washington is up to a conversation about what to do with the millions of foreign citizens here illegally. Santorum quickly broadened the topic from illegal immigration to all admissions, saying that after the federal government has allowed 35 million new immigrants in recent years, he was ready to reduce future legal immigration to put the emphasis on creating a better life for hard-working Americans.
I'm glad Fox's Bill Hemmer asked the provocative question that was like the one that most reporters ask first about immigration: What will you do with the millions of illegal immigrants already in this country, and particularly what will you say to the child of an illegal alien who might see its family broken apart by your tough immigration policy? The question reflects the elitists' notion that immigration policy exists primarily for would-be immigrants. Rick Santorum powerfully proclaimed his intention to shape immigration policy for what it can do for struggling workers. Rick Perry just as emphatically stated his top immigration priority to be providing for the safety of Americans.
A Presidential quality is to have sensitivity to the anecdote but not to the detriment of overall policy for the masses. Perry & Santorum pass test on immigration answers.
Perry & Santorum -- like Walker in Iowa -- refuse to be cowed by emotional 'what say to kid of an illegal alien' question.
COMMENTS ON SECOND DEBATE
I'm essentially OK with Bush standing by his comment that illegal aliens bringing their family here is an "act of love." But it must be acknowledged that illegal aliens break laws designed to protect vulnerable citizens while they are trying to increase the consumption of their families. I thought he acquitted himself well by immediately noting that it is the responsibility of our government to keep foreign citizens from breaking those laws. He says our government has the responsibility to pick and choose who comes in.
Bush was wrong to say that illegal aliens "have no other option" than to break our laws. Many quit their jobs in other countries to come here.
Bush hurriedly says it at end of an answer so that a person may have missed hearing it. Bush stands pat as a 100% amnesty backer but vigorously joins anti-sanctuary & pro-E-Verify choruses.
Looks like every candidate backs anti-sanctuary laws; Cruz says GOP leaders blocked any vote.
Cruz: amnesty (that Bush supports) achieves Obama pledge to "fundamentally change country."
Cruz disagrees with Trump that U.S. leaders are stupid but say they allow the country to be overrun because they don't want to enforce immigration . laws.
Walker continues theme from 'happy hour' debate that immigration policy should be for American workers.
Without mentioning Trump, Walker backs a main theme by saying international criminal organizations are penetrating the country
Would like to hear more details but gotta love that Walker sticks with "go forward with legal immig. system that gives priority to Am. working families & wages"
Big toast to Walker for sticking up for American workers.
Walker refuses to be defensive about changing his stance and opposing amnesty & doubling immigration.
ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Feb 19th 2016 @ 10:32am EST