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GOP Candidates on Immigration - Where Do they Stand? By Danielle Beach-Oswald

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Although political pundits believe that this election focuses largely on the economy, the Washington Posted noted on September 1 that "immigration is an issue that voters won't let the GOP hopefuls escape." At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on August 24, Mitt Romney began the discussion with talks about jobs and the economy. The first question asked to him was about his stance on border security. At an August 26 event in South Carolina, Michele Bachmann's biggest praise came from comments about her stance on illegal immigration rather than her views on the health care overhaul or the economy. After President Bush's 2006 bill that was criticized by many Republicans for its legalization proposal, the Republican party has moved further to the right on the issue of illegal immigration but many are asking where each of the candidates stand.


Current Republican front-runner Rick Perry remains a strong advocate of border security and believes that securing the border must happen before any discussion on illegal immigration. However, as Governor of Texas, Rick Perry was a staunch advocate of close business ties between Mexico and the United States and criticized the construction of a border security fence. Additionally, other Republicans have criticized Rick Perry's signing of a Texas bill that allowed all Texans who lived in the state for three years to be eligible for in-state tuition rates regardless of their legal status. Perry has also remained critical of Arizona's immigration position.


Mitt Romney's priority rests on cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. He believes that only after employers are punished for hiring illegal immigrants should the country proceed with any form of immigration reform. Although Michelle Bachmann believes in building a border security fence on "every inch" of the US-Mexico border, she has failed to provide any real details with regards to her stance on immigration reform. Perhaps the most controversial stance on immigration comes from Ron Paul who believes in eliminating birthright citizenship which would change the 14th Amendment. He views birthright citizenship as a major encouragement of illegal immigration.


It's time for the GOP candidates to lay out their plans on immigration reform. There has been a lot of rhetoric, but little substance added. Although jobs and the economy may be an important issue in this election season, the Pew Research Center noted on May 4, 2011 that 72% of all Americans support a pathway to citizenship program. It's time for the Republican candidates to keep this in mind and draft a cohesive policy towards immigration reform.

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