Chris Chmielenski's picture


  by  Chris Chmielenski

Eight GOP Presidential Hopefuls participated in Thursday night’s debate in Ames, Iowa, but only five were asked about immigration. And none of the candidates brought up the issue on their own. Herman Cain had the strongest response in dealing with illegal immigration, while the frontrunner Mitt Romney was finally asked the question we’ve all been begging to hear.

The moderators received some criticism after last night’s debate for not necessarily having complete control over the Hopefuls and asking some loaded questions, but when it came to immigration, the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio was the true winner of Thursday’s debate for her question to Mitt Romney.

Ferrechio asked:

With the unemployment rate at 9.1%, do you still think we need to import more foreign labor?

Despite Romney’s support for continued high levels of immigration, he offered a decent answer.

Of course not. We’re not looking to bring more people into jobs than can be done by Americans.

Romney could have suggested lowering legal immigration levels, and even go as far as for calling for a moratorium on most immigration, but his answer could have been worse. He was asked the question because he’s said in the past that he supports bringing in more talented foreign workers – a position he reiterated on Thursday night.

We want to make sure that America is home to the best and the brightest in the world. If someone comes here and gets a Ph.D. in physics, that's someone that I would like to staple a greencard to their diploma rather than to say to them to go home. Instead, we let people come across our border illegally or overstay their visas. They get to stay in the country. I want the best and brightest to be metered into the country based upon the needs of our employment sector.

It was Romney’s final point that offered some hope for his policy regarding legal immigration. He said that he would like to see legal immigration somewhat determined by our economic needs.

For legal immigration to work, we have to secure the border and we also have to crack down on employers who knowingly hire people who are here illegally. I like legal immigration. I'd have the number of visas that we give to people that come here legally determined in part by the economy.


Herman Cain continues to provide the toughest rhetoric when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration. He was asked about a comment he made after Pres. Obama joked about moats with alligators along the border in a speech in El Paso, Texas. After the president’s speech, Cain said he would add to that idea a 20-foot barbed wire, electrified fence.

America has got to learn how to take a joke.

Cain did list his four-point plan in dealing with illegal immigration, but we still don’t know how he feels about current legal immigration levels.

First, we must secure the border with whatever means necessary. Secondly, enforce the laws that are already there. Thirdly, promote the path to citizenship that's already there. We have a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, it’s called legal immigration! Fourth, I agree with empowering the states and allowing them to deal with that issue.

America can be a nation with high fences and wide open doors.

Of all the Hopefuls listed on our presidential grid, Cain has the best grade among the five that were asked about immigration during last night’s debate.


Ron Paul was asked about a statement he made opposing a national E-Verify law. Paul didn’t back away from that statement last night.

I don't like putting the burden on our business people to be the policemen. … If an illegal comes into our country and a church helps them and feeds them, we don't blame the church.

While Paul’s comparison between businesses and churches sounds good, there is a difference. Churches provide assistance to illegal aliens through charity and good will, but businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens are denying unemployed Americans a chance at a job.

Paul also fails to recognize that the national E-Verify mandate offered in Rep. Lamar Smith’s H.R. 2164 takes a huge burden off of employers. Currently, employers are subject to I-9 audits from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and could face fines if it’s found that they hired illegal workers.

By using E-Verify, however, the burden of determining legal working status is placed on the system and employers who use E-Verify in good faith are protected from prosecution. It’s the employers that knowingly break the law that would be penalized.

Paul did say during the debate that he supports securing the border, opposes amnesty and opposes offering rewards to illegal aliens.

I don't think we should give amnesty and they become voters. I do think we could deal with our borders. One way I think we could do it is to pay a lot less attention to the borders between Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and bring our troops home and protect our borders. Why do we protect our borders overseas when we don't protect our borders at home?

I don't believe in giving entitlements to illegal aliens, and I don't support a mandate on the states to do so.


Both Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman came into the debate supporting some form of amnesty, and neither shied away from their positions on Thursday night.

In fact, Gingrich continues to support his idea of creating local citizen boards that would determine the illegal aliens that could stay in the country and the ones that would be deported. But he did take a shot at Pres. Obama’s inability to take action on immigration reform.

Pres. Obama's comment about moats and alligators was a perfect symbol of how he's failed as a leader. He failed to get through any type of immigration reform when he controlled the Senate and he controlled the House. He could ram through Obamacare, but he couldn't get through immigration. Now, the Republicans are in charge of the House, and he descends to a level of attack. I think it's very sad of a president of a nation like this.

We ought to control the border. I'd be prepared to take as many people from the Homeland Security bureaucracy in Washington and move them to Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico as needed to control the border.

Huntsman was asked about prior statements that he had made opposing mass deportations, and he dodged the question. Instead, he said that he supports a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and opposes a state-level approach to enforcing immigration laws.

There's been no leadership out of Washington. And because there's been no leadership, we've come up with this patchwork of solutions in the states that's created a complex and confusing environment.

When I'm elected president, I will show the American people that we can secure the border; that's what they want done. I'm not going to talk about anything else until we get it done. Secure the border. 1,800 miles. We've got a third of it done, fencing, technology and National Guard boots on the ground. I'll talk to the four border state governors and make sure that it's done before addressing anything else.


Earlier this week, our LEAP coordinator, Andrew Good, sent out an alert to most of our activists asking them to respond to a Tweet from debate moderator Bret Baier. Through his Twitter account, Baier asked for suggested questions to be used during the debate.

I can proudly say that you dominated Baier’s Twitter account! At least one in every three comments sent to Baier were immigration related.

Andrew gave you four possible suggestions for Tweets, and the most commonly posted comments sent to Baier were about national E-Verify and the connection between legal immigration and unemployment. Both of those questions were asked!

We would like for all the Presidential Hopefuls, including Pres. Obama, to comment on a national E-Verify law and the impact of legal immigration on America’s unemployed, but with the help of your Tweets, we got the questions asked to at least a few of the Hopefuls. And it was the first time I can recall a Presidential Hopeful being asked for their position on legal immigration during times of high unemployment.

For the rest of the year and into next year, the GOP Hopefuls will be more accessible than any other time over the campaign period. We urge you to find out when these Hopefuls are holding an event near you, especially if you live in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina.

Please contact our LEAP team at if you’re interested in attending a campaign event.

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CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA

Illegal Immigration
Elections 2012
prez grid

Updated: Fri, Aug 12th 2011 @ 12:37pm EDT

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