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  by  Roy Beck

An audience member asked a great question:  How would the candidates ensure that Americans are first in line for jobs?  

But the CNN moderator ignored the jobs issue and turned it into a question only about amnesty.  The four remaining GOP Presidential Candidates proceeded to repeat past amnesty stances but failed to address the key question.  Nonetheless, we did learn a few things about the remaining candidates.  

The difficulty in getting any media or political leader to address immigration in the context of jobs and unemployment just underscores the importance for each of you reading this to:


It was most disappointing that CNN didn't ask any questions about immigration, considering that candidates had done quite a bit of advertising on the issue and Rick Santorum had broken new ground last Friday in calling for an end to Chain Migration and the Visa Lottery.  What a wonderful opportunity for CNN to ask what the other candidates think about these two sources of hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers competing with unemployed Americans.

Alas, immigration came up only because an audience member raised it near the end of the last debate before the South Carolina primary to be held tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the woman got a little tongue-tied. I sympathize.  I have many times taken to a microphone in a crowded setting and tripped over the words of what was a carefully crafted question in my mind. But here's what the woman said at the microphone:

Hi, I would like to ask, on the issue of amnesty of the illegal aliens, would you -- how would you secure that the American citizens would get to keep the jobs in line first for them?

-- Question from audience

I think CNN's John King didn't really catch what she was saying.  Instead of taking 30 seconds and asking her to repeat the question, he just winged it and said:

Mr. Speaker, let's start with you on that. She mentioned the word 'amnesty.'

-- CNN's John King

And that was the end of the great opportunity. No candidate in the following exchange showed any concern for American workers in their description of what they would do on immigration.


King said he started with Gingrich because he had proposed a solution that his opponents had called an amnesty. 

Gingrich talked a lot but didn't add much to what we already knew about his positions. His key points last night were:


  • Gingrich would waive all federal regulations to build a fence and fully control the border by Jan. 1, 2014.  And if he had to, he would move half the Department of Homeland Security employees in Washington to the border.

This was in keeping with the EXCELLENT rating we already award Gingrich in this category.


  • Gingrich would deport gang members and other bad illegal aliens much more quickly than is now the case.
  • Before giving some illegal aliens the permanent residency and work permits he has promised in the past, he would "control the border." 
  • He would legalize illegal aliens who are grandmothers and grandfathers.
  • He would also legalize an unknown number of other illegal aliens who are deemed by a local committee to be "financially responsible," have "genuine family ties," and have an American family to sponsor them. 
  •  In the past, Gingrich has said the illegal aliens would get permanent residency and job permits. Last night, it just pointed out that the illegal aliens would not get U.S. citizenship.

He said nothing that would indicate a change from the BAD rating we have given in this category.  He avoids an ABYSMAL rating because his criteria would seem to offer the legalization to perhaps only one-tenth to one-half of the illegal population. 


  • Gingrich would impose "enormous economic sanctions" on businesses that hire and illegal alien.

This is in keeping with the EXCELLENT rating we already award Gingrich in this category.


  • Gingrich would make it much easier to immigrate legally to the U.S.
  • He said he favors "a guest worker program."  This is a somewhat strange statement, since the U.S. already has many guest worker programs in place.  But he has indicated in the past that he thinks the United States should allow a lot more guest workers than the present rate of nearly a million temporary work visas a year.
  • His answer last night suggested that he feels that most illegal aliens are taking jobs that only foreign workers can do or are likely to do. At least, that was my sense in his answer that "there will be no excuse" for hiring illegal workers "once you have a guest worker program that's legal."

His comments last night were in line with broader past statements that cause us to give him a BAD rating on unfair worker competition.


John King posed a different question to Ron Paul.  He noted that perhaps a quarter of illegal aliens work for individuals.  "If this is a problem if I hired an illegal immigrant, say, to clean my home, should I be prosecuted for doing that?" King asked.

Here are all the points that Paul made in his segment on immigration:


  • Paul said individuals should not be punished for hiring illegal aliens.  Laws against this kind of action "are misdirected."
  • In the past, Paul has criticized E-Verify and other efforts to keep illegal aliens from getting jobs by placing mandates on employers.  Last night, he said that laws are wrong "that makes you the policeman or the businessman the policeman . . . "
  • The responsibility for keeping illegal aliens out of the country should be on border guards and the federal government.

Paul said nothing to change our rating of him as ABYSMAL in this category.  His support for border enforcement does nothing to deter the estimated 40% of illegal aliens who arrive legally, overstay their visas and then illegally take jobs.  He has steadfastly refused to hold employers accountable for enticing illegal immigration by providing jobs for those who break immigration laws.


  • Paul pointed to the irony that the U.S. spends so much money placing our military to protect other nation's borders but won't secure our own borders. "Why don't we take those resources and quit pretending we can defend those borders and put them on our borders and take care of our needs here?"

Paul has also made securing the borders a more important part of his official website which states: "A nation without borders is no nation at all. . . . It just doesn’t make sense to fight terrorists abroad while leaving our front door unlocked."

Take a look at the list of border statements on our Ron Paul page at:

You will see that Paul has a checkered record in Congress and in speechmaking about the borders. But the changes on his website and his comment last night have led us to raise his rating from UNHELPFUL to just barely crossing the line into EXCELLENT.  


  • Although this whole segment of the debate was focused on amnesty and legalization for illegal aliens, Paul did not use the opportunity to state his opposition.  He did say he was not soft on illegal immigration, even though he was unwilling to hold businesses accountable for hiring illegal aliens.
  • Paul re-stated his strong opposition to any rewards to illegal aliens in the form of welfare and other taxpayer-provided social services.

In the book he wrote and released last spring, Paul outlined a legalization program with a lot of similarities to the Gingrich proposal.  We rate Gingrich BAD on legalization.   But we have rated Paul as UNHELPFUL because in all the debates since his book came out, he has never reiterated his plan for a "green card with an asterisk" that allows illegal aliens to work and live here but not get citizenship. 

Paul's supporters have pointed out that he continually says he opposes "amnesty."  But nearly every supporter of mass legalization also claims they oppose amnesty.  We have required candidates to make it clear that they would oppose largescale work permits to illegal aliens -- whether or not they support citizenship.  Paul's failure to take the opportunity last night to declare his opposition even to "amnesty" was not a good sign of a firm commitment to turn away from the amnesty he described in his own book.  But his website has provided this clear statement: 

"No Amnesty -- The Obama Administration's endorsement of so-called 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform' granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants will only encourage more law-breaking."

The website and Paul's refusal to show any support in any way for Gingrich's very public and aggressive support for work permits for large numbers of illegal aliens causes us to change Paul's legalization rating from UNHELPFUL to FIRST STEPS. 


  • Paul indicated that one of the reasons so many illegal aliens hold jobs in the U.S. is because there are so many Americans who would rather by unemployed than take a low-paying job. 

While there may be something to that analysis in some instances, it seems so callous toward the 20 million Americans who actually want a full-time job and can't find one.  Every time an enforcement action pushes illegal aliens out of any job (other than field work), Americans line up to be hired.

Nonetheless, we have reviewed our ABYSMAL rating of Paul in this category.  That rating was based heavily on some really outlandish anti-American-worker statements in his book of earlier last year.  Fortunately while on the campaign trail in the months since, Paul has abstained from repeating those arguments for huge increases in foreign workers at a time of high unemployment. 

Generally, we reserve the rating ABYSMAL for candidates who are actively and currently pushing an agenda. Because the book is now almost a year in the past, we are upgrading Paul's rating in this category to BAD.


For a candidate who has earned ratings in 10 categories to warrant an A-minus grade, Santorum's comments were disappointing in terms of a missed opportunity to cover a broad range of subjects to distinguish himself from the other candidates.

He wasted a fair amount of time trying to make a case that Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on the amnesty issue.  In my opinion, this is an unfair charge based on a single answer to a reporter's question during the Bush amnesty era. Except for that one comment, Romney has a consistent and firm record of opposition to mass legalizations.

But Santorum did make a couple of very strong points:


  •  He ridiculed Gingrich's suggestion that the longer a person has been an illegal alien in the country the more that person has earned the right to remain legally.  He said living here for 25 years, for example, means an illegal alien has been constantly breaking laws for 25 years, including illegally holding jobs and probably guilty of identity fraud.
  • He decried arguments that immigration laws shouldn't be enforced if they cause illegal aliens to be separated from some of their family.  Illegal aliens should not be held any less accountable for law-breaking that a mother who goes to jail for shoplifting, he said.

Santorum reinforced our EXCELLENT rating for him in the amnesty category.


Romney also fully rejected Gingrich's amnesty plan, saying that solving illegal immigration is relatively easy compared with the other issues facing the country.


  • Romney said he would build the fence and have enough Border Patrol agents to secure the fence.

In line with our EXCELLENT rating for him in this category.


  • "We're not going to round them all up and deport them, but we're also not going to give them a preferential pathway to become permanent residents or . . citizens. They need to go home . . . "
  • Romney would give illegal aliens some time to get their affairs in order before moving their families back to their home countries where they could get in the back of the line of people there who are applying to immigrate to the U.S.  "Coming here illegally should not give you an advantage being able to become a permanent resident of the United States."

All consistent with our EXCELLENT rating for him in this category.


  • He said employers who hire illegal aliens should be "severely sanctioned."

Consistent with his EXCELLENT rating in this category.


Read about all the candidates and all the ratings at:

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

Updated: Fri, Jan 20th 2012 @ 5:38pm EST

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