Government & Politics

Rubio, Walker Struggle With Immigration Footing

The two GOP candidates are taking heat from both sides.

Lewis Morris · Apr. 24, 2015
Walker and Rubio

Immigration is likely to become a major issue in the 2016 presidential race, which is a good thing because the nation’s immigration policies could use some reform. Unfortunately, any attempt at discussing reform will bring bombast, pandering rhetoric and misstatements of the facts.

GOP candidates Marco Rubio and Scott Walker have already been caught up in the debate, taking heat from all sides for their recent statements. And the changing positions these two men have held on the issue hasn’t done either of them any favors.

Right now, the focus is on Barack Obama’s amnesty plan, which thankfully has been stalled in the courts. Given Obama’s habit of thumbing his nose at the Constitution and circumventing the law to suit his political needs, we can be sure the matter won’t end there. But there is a larger issue at play than just the 12 million illegals being recruited to join Democrat ranks.

Recently released U.S. Census figures reveal America is in the midst of an immigration wave unlike any the country has ever experienced. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, “Absent a change in current policy, the Census Bureau projects that in 2023 the nation’s immigrant population (legal and illegal) will reach 14.8 percent (51 million) of the total U.S. population — the highest share ever recorded in American history.” And by 2060, one in five people in the U.S. will be an immigrant.

These are astounding numbers, and, while America is a nation of immigrants, such a large influx raises questions. What will the impact be on American workers, our schools and our infrastructure? How will we be able to assimilate all these new arrivals? What if they don’t want to assimilate? After all, the Left tells them not to. Thanks to our current lack of direction on immigration policy, there are no sure answers.

One thing is certain: The American people are concerned. Every major polling organization from Pew to Gallup and beyond indicate Americans want to see some level of restrictions on immigration. They are concerned about the impact on their ability to get jobs, the downward pressure mass immigration puts on wages, and what will happen to an entitlement system already stretched to the breaking point.

For his part, Rubio has recently voiced support for an enforcement-first immigration policy that includes an E-Verify system in which all businesses large and small would take part. But, to many conservatives, Rubio’s bona fides were sullied by his involvement in crafting the Gang of Eight’s plan that eventually turned into an elaborate mask for amnesty. Rubio originally participated because he was motivated by the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, although he walked away from it after realizing (or perhaps we should say proving) Democrats couldn’t be trusted. Piecemeal reform, starting with enforcement and border security, is really the only way to go, he now says.

CBS’s Bob Schieffer tried to catch Rubio in a gotcha moment with the question of whether a President Rubio would sign into law the Gang of Eight bill he once championed. Rubio ducked by saying, “That’s a hypothetical that will never happen,” because such a bill would never survive the House. True enough, but a simple yes or no answer that more clearly illustrated his current position could have mitigated the appearance of pandering.

Walker has similarly taken heat from all sides because of recent statements on his immigration position. In an interview with Glenn Beck, Walker asserted, “The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages.”

That makes sense, and it’s in line with what the vast majority of Americans believe. However, The Washington Post accused Walker of being protectionist, and others have accused him of being a flip-flopper because he had previously suggested support for a path to legalization for illegal immigrants. Of course, his idea of legalization didn’t approach amnesty, but his position has been rather hard to pin down.

The vitriol Rubio and Walker face is due in large part to voicing the idea that legal immigration needs to be curbed and illegal immigration needs to be dealt with by enforcement before any other means. (No doubt they’re both moving Right for the primary.) While a majority of Americans, as well as a sizable number of recent immigrants, hold these views, the “enlightened” leftist elites in Washington don’t think this is the answer. And that’s only because they see a fresh block of voters who will support Democrats indefinitely if they can get them securely into the U.S.

Standing with the majority of Americans on immigration is a good start for both Rubio and Walker. But they will also need to be clearer in their messaging and remain consistent if they hope to be taken seriously.

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