Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a presumptive 2016 Republican presidential candidate, says he has changed his immigration stance and no longer backs comprehensive reform that would allow illegal immigrants to be penalized but remain in the country.Or does he?
“My view has changed,” Walker said in a “Fox News Sunday” interview taped Friday. “I’m flat out saying it.”
Walker in 2013 said a plan in which illegal immigrants can become United States citizens by first paying penalties and enduring a waiting period “makes sense.”
However, he is now saying such a plan is tantamount to amnesty....
But take a look at how Walker answered Wallace’s follow up question:Greg Sargent thinks this is a reason for optimism:
[CHRIS] WALLACE: The question [in 2013] was, ‘Can you envision a world where if these people paid a penalty that they would have a path to citizenship?’ and you said, ‘Sure, that makes sense.’Did you catch the first part of Walker’s response? He said, “I believe there’s a way you can do that,” as in he can envision a scenario in which most of the illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States would be granted a pathway to citizenship in exchange for paying a financial penalty.
WALKER: I believe there’s a way you can do that. First and foremost, you have to secure that border, or none of these plans make any sense.
Key to Walker's immigration comments: He said "there's a way" to get to legalization, if border secured first. That's Jeb/Rubio stance.— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) March 2, 2015
But nearly all of the Republicans talk like that. They talk like that because Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush weren't immigration hardliners, because many of their big donors aren't immigration hardliners, and because a lot of them tried to win a bit of Hispanic support in past elections. But if we elect a Republican president next year, that president will be dealing with anti-immigration zealots in his own party just as Bush did during his presidency, and just as John Boehner is doing now.
... House Republicans -- many of whom represent the conservative wing of the party -- have yet to do the hard policy work of figuring out whether there is any set of conditions under which they can accept legalization as part of a broad compromise, and if so, what it would have to entail to be acceptable to them.Nonsense. They've done "the hard policy work of figuring out whether there is any set of conditions under which they can accept legalization as part of a broad compromise." Short answer: No, there is no such set of conditions. They won't accept legalization under any circumstances.
Yes, it's true, as Sargent writes, that most of the 2016 candidates make reasonable-sounding noises on immigration, at least occasionally:
... it’s way too early in the process to expect specifics. But one surprise about the 2016 GOP field has been that, unlike many House Republicans, most of the contenders actually do appear open to supporting some form of legalization or other.Sargent links to a National Journal roundup of the GOP wannabes' positions on a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and for DREAMer children -- and, notably, the NJ analysis of most of the potential candidates' positions is that they're "unclear." They flip, then they flop. They sound moderate, then they denounce "amnesty."
But which way do you think they're going to lean after the next year, which they'll have to spend playing more-Republican-than-thou in the primaries? Maybe -- maybe -- Jeb Bush can buy a primary victory without being an immigration hardliner. But if he can't (and I'm skeptical), no other candidate will try. And even if one of them does make it to the White House as a reform supporter, or even as reform-curious, House hardliners will just shut him down.
There's a simple rule for Republicans regarding immigration: They can try to say that they support reform -- but they all have to say that what they oppose is "amnesty." The problem is, any bill that attempts to reform the system, no matter what it says, will be defined by movement conservatives as "amnesty."
So it will be impossible for any Republican presidential aspirant who wants to retain the support of his party's voters to support any kind of reform. George W. Bush learned that. President Jeb or President Scottie would learn that, too, in a big hurry.