After some setbacks over the past several weeks, top aides to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tell Breitbart News that he’s toughening up his immigration position as he learns more about the issue.
“He’s for border security first, enforce the laws on the books, fix legal immigration system with national interest in mind and then deal with those here,” Walker spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in an email.
Kukowski’s comments to Breitbart News come after a trip Walker took on Friday to the border with Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
A lot depends on what the governor means by a: “legal immigration system with national interest in mind.” Still, this could be a step toward Walker remaking his image on immigration in the manner of Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
The question becomes: What does Walker think is a legal immigration system that serves the national interest? While he hasn’t laid that out yet, there’s a massive opportunity for either success—or failure—depending on where he comes down on this matter.
“He looks forward to further detailing his ideas on securing the border and enforcing the laws,” Kukowski added. “Yes, at the minimum, there needs to be penalties put in place. In addition to securing our borders, the federal government must enforce our laws, penalize those who break the law including paying back taxes, and implement a universal E-Verify system so employers are hiring legal employees.”
Where Walker comes down on the immigration system could make or break his candidacy.
If he comes out for a Chamber of Commerce style, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg-backed open borders type of position that massively increases legal immigration, it could give other potential conservative candidates enough ammunition to take him down. But, if Walker comes out for an immigration policy that serves the national interest, something like what Sessions is pushing for—meaning that before allowing people from foreign countries into America to take jobs, struggling Americans are given the first opportunity to get those scarce jobs—then he could clear the field and wipe out any competition on the right.
It all hinges on what Walker views as an immigration policy that serves the “national interest.”
When Sessions renamed his Senate subcommittee to reflect that point, he released a statement detailing how important immigration policy is to sticking up for American workers.
“On no issue have special interests had a tighter grip than on the issue of immigration,” Sessions said. After noting that he was renaming the subcommittee, and adding Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)—another populist—as the subcommittee’s vice chairman, Sessions detailed why:
The financial and political elite have been controlling this debate for years; this subcommittee will give voice to those whose voice has been shut out: the voice of the dedicated immigration officers who have been blocked from doing their jobs; the voice of the working families whose wages have been reduced by years of record immigration; the voice of the American IT workers who are being replaced with guest workers; the voice of the parents who are worried about their schools and hospitals; and the voice of all Americans who believe we must have a lawful system of immigration they can be proud of and that puts their interests first.
Of course Walker hasn’t not put as much thought into this as Sessions, but he hasn’t had to because he’s a governor of a northern state. If he does go down this road and works to stick up for Americans against all the special interests—Silicon Valley companies, labor unions, the Chamber of Commerce, and more combined and working together alongside each other lobbying Congress for more immigration both legal and illegal—the national GOP base may decide to let him slide on previously unpopular positions if he gets it right moving forward.
Polling data from GOP pollster KellyAnne Conway has found that likely voters overwhelmingly—regardless of their party affiliation—want job opportunities in the United States to go to Americans ahead of both illegal and future legal immigrants.
In fact, 77 percent of likely voters from a poll Conway took last summer want jobs to go to U.S. born workers and legal immigrants already in the country rather than to future legal immigrants. Only 4 percent thought new jobs should go to future legal immigrants, while 17 percent did not know and 2 percent refused to answer.
With regard to illegal immigrants, the numbers are even higher: 89 percent want jobs to go first to Americans and legal immigrants already here over illegal immigrants, while only 1 percent think illegal immigrants should get the first chance at a job and 7 percent did not know and 1 percent refused to answer.
Conway’s polling surveyed 1,001 likely voters from July 16 through July 20 in 2014.
In addition to those powerful numbers, Conway’s polling also found that about 75 percent of all likely voters—and 80 percent of likely Republican voters—want lower levels of legal immigration into America, saying that green cards should be limited to just 100,000 per year. Currently, somewhere around a million green cards are issued per year in the United States—meaning that Americans of all political affiliations are craving a politician who will stand up for struggling Americans over future immigrants.
Walker has had a couple major immigration-related setbacks in recent weeks. A Wall Street Journal report on Thursday said that Walker—at a private dinner in New Hampshire, closed to the public—flip-flopped again on his prior reversal from support for a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. The Wall Street Journal’s Reid Epstein reported that Walker told a private gathering organized by New Hampshire GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn that he does in fact think illegal aliens should get citizenship, despite what he said on Fox News Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where he said he “changed” on the issue and does not anymore believe that illegal aliens should get citizenship.
“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told a private dinner of New Hampshire Republicans this month that he backed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and to eventually become eligible for citizenship, a position at odds with his previous public statements on the matter,” Epstein wrote. “Mr. Walker’s remarks, which were confirmed by three people present and haven’t been reported previously, vary from the call he has made in recent weeks for “no amnesty”—a phrase widely employed by people who believe immigrants who broke the law by entering the country without permission shouldn’t be awarded legal status or citizenship.”
Walker’s team vigorously denies the Wall Street Journal report, however, and depending on where the governor comes down on the major questions they may be able to get this stuff behind them.
“We strongly dispute this account. Governor Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed. His position has not changed, he does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants, and this story line is false,” Walker’s spokeswoman Kukowski said in an email to reporters after the Wall Street Journal story.
The Wall Street Journal flap—which is really a he-said-she-said between Walker’s team and the WSJ’s Epstein—came after Walker had just gotten past the now infamous decision a couple weeks ago to hire pro-amnesty communications aide Liz Mair. Mair resigned within two days of her hiring due to her immigration position and her positions on social issues like abortion and gay marriage being at odds with Walker, combined with the fact that she had insulted Iowans via Twitter when Walker was speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in January.
That all came after Walker said during an interview with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he’d “changed” on immigration, after previously supporting amnesty for illegal aliens—something he no longer supports.
Now, with the Mair and Wall Street Journal mishaps in the rearview mirror, Walker toured the U.S. border with Mexico with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday. Walker and Abbott both Tweeted out pictures of their border tour, and Kukowski issued a statement detailing the governor’s visit to the largely insecure border. “First and foremost, Governor Walker believes it is painfully clear Washington, D.C. hasn’t done its job securing our borders,” Kukowski said:
Officials on the ground are doing an excellent job with the resources they have, but more bodies and technology are needed. In the past Governor Walker has talked about securing the borders to protect the safety of our citizens – it’s a security issue even more than an immigration issue.
During his briefing today, it was made even more evident that the broken border is a safety issue not only as it relates to potential extremists, but also continued drug cartel violence. Drug cartels pose a long-term danger to border states and securing the border is vital.
So Walker could go toe-to-toe with Jeb Bush, who says that illegal immigration is an “act of love” by illegal aliens. On the debate stage, and on the campaign trail, Bush will undoubtedly seek to trip up his likely opponents and then hammer any gaffes home with millions of dollars worth of television ads.
But if the potential opposition candidates learn the issue—something the governor seems to be trying to do—and can effectively communicate their positions on it, they could paint Bush as an out-of-touch corporate elitist supporter of open borders and sail into the GOP nomination. Taking a tough stand on immigration is also something likely to help Republicans in the general election—contrary to popular inside-the-beltway belief—as the politics of the issue find Americans consistently searching for a leader who’s willing to stand up to the special interests and illegal aliens, not someone who’s seeking to appease the lobbyists.
“I think it [immigration] is going to be very important [in 2016], particularly with these waves we’re experiencing of new illegal immigrants and illegal minors,” Sen. Vitter said during an appearance on Breitbart News Saturday radio program this weekend on Sirius XM Patriot.
I think the politics of this is largely misread by a bunch of Republicans in Washington. I think the public is really fed up with these waves upon waves upon waves like the new wave of the illegal minors and the federal government doing nothing but sort of actively taking them in and actively relocating them all around the country.
Then of course, President Obama last November giving a broad executive amnesty to about 5 million illegals in this country. People are just fed up with that problem of making the problem worse, not solving it. I think Republicans who misread voter sentiment on this really do that at their peril.
I know a lot of Republicans in Washington–not all for sure, I work closely with Jeff Sessions who is a great leader on this issue and others–but a bunch of Republicans in Washington are about two years behind on this issue. I really think these new waves of the illegals and minors who have flooded in in direct response to President Obama’s DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] executive order really have changed thinking and have changed the politics on this issue.
In addition to Conway’s polling, National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) polling data from firm Paragon Insights from before the midterm election found very similar results among all voters—Democrats, Republicans and independents—who were very much opposed to open borders style policies.
Yet with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the rise on the Democratic side, it may be difficult for Republicans to avoid falling into the traps he’s created. Sessions, in his 25-page immigration roadmap for Republicans at the beginning of this Congress, laid out how the GOP can beat Schumer and still win politically and morally. In fact, Sessions argues, standing up for Americans over those special interests is standing for true immigration reform that actually solves the problem—rather than further enabling open borders policies.
“‘Immigration reform’ may be the single most abused phrase in the English language. It has become a legislative honorific almost exclusively reserved for proposals which benefit everyone but actual American citizens,” Sessions wrote.
Consider the recent Obama-backed ‘immigration reform’ bill rejected by Congress. That bill—the culmination of a $1.5 billion lobbying effort—doubled the influx of foreign workers to benefit corporate lobbyists, offered sweeping amnesty to benefit illegal immigrants, and collapsed enforcement to benefit groups in the Democrat political machine that advocate open borders. But for American citizens, the legislation offered nothing except lower wages, higher unemployment, and a heavier tax burden.
There used to be a time in politics when Democrats, too, stood up for Americans when it came to immigration—something that is long since past. In fact, in the 1990s, Rep. Barbara Jordan (D-TX)—a key figure in the history of the Congressional Black Caucus—worked alongside current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to protect Americans from a massive influx of immigration. As late as the mid-2000s, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) fought against the amnesty effort from Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on the grounds it would increase foreign labor importation to the point where it would hurt union members.
But now, as the entire leadership of all the major labor unions has joined in lockstep with the majority of the Democrats and a hodgepodge of special interests, the entire Democratic Party—and many elements of the Republican Party—have abandoned Americans for a whole host of reasons.
“In the House and Senate, they were virtually unanimous in their support of the 2013 ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill,” Sessions wrote of the Democrats in his memo. “But their strategy—appealing to the interest groups, donors, advocacy coalitions, and media personalities who oppose any sensible immigration controls—rests on the assumption that Republicans will compete for the same audience. But we were not elected to clamor for the affections of Washington pundits and trendy CEOs.”
The question moving forward is whether Walker, and other potential 2016 presidential candidates, embrace what Sessions is saying—or not. With Walker’s team saying he wants an immigration policy that serves the “national interest,” there may be hope yet he just might do so.