Immigration wasn't the top issue on the minds of Iowa voters today. But it is worth noting that they chose as their clear winners the two top contenders who have taken the most unequivocal stands against amnesty -- Romney and Santorum.
The other two top contenders were Paul and Gingrich who came in third and fourth and each has backed a limited but sizeable legalization for illegal aliens. Paul has proposed giving many illegal aliens "green cards with an asterisk" while Gingrich has proposed giving them "red cards." In both cases potentially millions of illegal aliens would be allowed to permanently hold U.S. jobs but not to gain citizenship.
On other immigration issues, Santorum and Romney differ. But on amnesty -- or legalization -- of the millions of illegal aliens in this country, both have been unafraid to stand firmly opposed, even when challenged vigorously by journalists, high-paid GOP establishment consultants and national religious leaders to show more compassion for unlawfully present foreign citizens.
Just before former Sen. Rick Santorum began to surge in the polls in Iowa, he made his opposition to amnesty much clearer.
Asked on a Fox News interview on Nov. 30 if he was willing to break up families by enforcing laws against illegal immigration, Santorum was unwavering:
If you're in this country legally and you overstay your visa, you get sent home even though you may have family here. . . Why? Because we have rules. We're a country of laws. If you don't comply with the law, then you pay the consequences.
I don’t like to break up families, but you know the family can go back. We’re not sending them to Siberia. We’re not sending them to any kind of, you know, difficult country. They’re going to Mexico, which is a great country, a nice country. And they can go back like every other Mexican that wants to come to America and come here legally.
-- Rick Santorum
By time of his Dec. 13 interview with Iowa Public Television, Santorum was quickly becoming a front-runner for the first time anywhere. He could have played it safe and been cagey about such a supposedly risky topic as immigration. Instead, the candidate who has identified himself consistently with his Catholic faith took on the Catholic bishops of this country and their aggressive advocacy for amnesty. Asked directly about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' stance, Santorum said:
If we develop the program like the Catholic bishops suggested we would be creating a huge magnet for people to come in and break the law some more . . . We'd be inviting people to cross this border, come into this country and with the expectation that they will be able to stay here.
-- Rick Santorum
Santorum was going across Iowa trying to distinguish himself from Romney in every way he could. But on amnesty, he was making it clear that he was just as dead-set against mass legalization as Romney.
In the Nov. 22 debate, former Gov. Romney said:
. . . to say that we're going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you're all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing. People respond to incentives. And if you can become a permanent resident of the United States by coming here illegally, you'll do so.
-- Mitt Romney
Throughout 2011, Romney was pushed repeatedly to step back from his opposition to mass legalization. He consistently said that immigration lawbreakers should not be rewarded with legalization or with other incentives.
Just last Saturday, Romeny specifically said he would veto the DREAM Act amnesty if passed by Congress, putting him on record against what many believe to be the most sympathetic amnesty because it involves young adults who may have been brought to this country illegally while young children. And new reports this week indicate the Romney campaign will begin a mailing in South Carolina outlining the ways that a Pres. Romney would remove the jobs magnets that keeps illegal aliens in this country.
Romney's and Santorum's strong stances against legalization and amnesty surely were contributing factors to their popularity with Iowa voters.
I have to believe that few of Ron Paul's stalwart supporters back him because of his "green card with an asterisk" proposal, or that Newt Gingrich's backers are enamored with his "red cards." Most of those supporters certainly voted for Paul and Gingrich DESPITE their legalization stances.
It is true that Gingrich held on to his first-place lead -- and even increased it some -- for several days after he announced his "red-card" legalization plan in November. But I believe that this became seen as an example of recklessness that began to trouble voters as they thought more about it. Gingrich's opponents pounded him for his legalization ideas, contributing to a collapse in the polls as dramatic as the one Texas Gov. Rick Perry suffered after defending providing taxpayer support to some illegal aliens.
As much as the open-borders groups and national pundits and consultants try to use bogus public opinion polling and fractured analysis to suggest that Republican voters don't care about immigration issues, the polls that ultimately count -- voting polls -- continually show that enforcing immigration laws to protect American workers and taxpayers is a winner. Iowa voters added to that record today.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
At the GOP Presidential Debate on November 22, 2011, Speaker Gingrich said, "The Krieble Foundation has a very good red card program that says you get to be legal, but you don't get a pass to citizenship. And so there's a way to ultimately end up with a country where there's no more illegality, but you haven't automatically given amnesty to anyone." The Krieble Foundation proposes increases legal immigration because it believes the U.S. has a worker shortage. Source: http://thepage.time.com/2011/11/23/transcript-cnn-national-security-debate/
In his 2011 book Liberty Defined, Rep. Paul says that “immigrants that can't be sent back due to the magnitude of the problem should not be given citizenship -- no amnesty should be granted. Maybe a 'green card' with an asterisk should be issued.... It could be argued that [this system] may well allow some immigrants who come here illegally a beneficial status without automatic citizenship or tax-supported benefits -- a much better option than deportation.” Source: Paul, Ron. Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect our Freedom. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011. 156.