Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, pledged to protect American workers from the economic effects, not only of illegal immigration but also of a massive increase in legal immigration.
During an interview with Glenn Beck, Walker became the first declared or potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate to stake out a position on immigration fully in line with that of Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). He also noted that he has been working with Chairman Sessions on the issue to learn more about it.
Walker is now the only potential or declared GOP presidential candidate to discuss the negative effects of a massive increase in legal immigration on American workers:
In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying—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, because the more I’ve talked to folks, I’ve talked to Senator Sessions and others out there—but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today—is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.
Walker discussed how in the past he did support amnesty, but says he doesn’t anymore, because he has learned more about the issue. That shows him to be one of the most open-minded GOP candidates on such matters. Walker went on to say:
As I said, I think when Chris Wallace a few weeks back, when I was on Fox News Sunday, asked me about this, he said. ‘did you change your position at least from some of these views from a decade ago’ and I said, ‘yeah.’ I think the American people not only want people who stand firm on issues, but people who listen to folks who have got rational thoughts and for me a lot of it was talking not just to citizens all across the country but to governors in border states who face real serious concerns about what’s happening on our border and elsewhere.
Walker says he discussed immigration policy in depth with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott when he visited the border a few weeks ago. He said that he doesn’t think he was “directly wrong” before but didn’t have a “full appreciation for what is the risk along our border.” He continued:
I knew there were people traveling, coming across the border, but really what you have is much greater than that. What you have is international criminal organizations, the drug cartels aren’t just smuggling drugs—they’re smuggling firearms and smuggling not only humans but trafficking and horrific situations. It’s an issue that’s not just about safety or about national security, it’s about sovereignty. If we had this kind of assault along our water based ports, the federal government would be sending in the navy. And yet there is a very minimal force along our land-based borders, be it New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, or California, and so to me it was clearly far bigger than immigration.
We need to have a much bigger investment from the federal government to secure the border, through not only infrastructure but personnel and certainly technology to do that and to make a major shift. If you don’t do that, there’s much greater issues than just immigration. Folks coming in from potentially ISIS-related elements and others around the world, there’s safety issues from the drugs and drug trafficking and gun trafficking and gun things with regard—but to get to immigration you have got to secure the border, because nothing you do on immigration fundamentally works if you don’t secure that border.
Walker also discussed the need for interior enforcement:
Then I think you need to enforce the law and the way you effectively do that is to require every employer in America to use an effective E-Verify system and by effective I mean you need to require particularly small businesses and farmers and ranchers. We got to have a system that works, but then the onus is on the employers and the penalties have to be steep that they’re only hiring people who are here, who are legal to be here. No amnesty, if someone wants to be a citizen, they have to go back to their country of origin and get in line behind everybody else who’s waiting.
This development, perhaps one of if not the biggest of the 2016 presidential campaign so far, comes as Walker has taken a commanding lead in polls in all three of the first GOP primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
The reason why this development is so significant is that the two establishment-backed candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, both have an in-depth understanding of the immigration issue and come down on the side that supports special interests’ desire for a massive increase in legal immigration that hurts American workers.
Meanwhile, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY)—who like Walker make up the more grassroots conservative side of the field—don’t really weigh in on the legal side of the immigration issue. So as Walker continues to gain traction as a potential candidate, and readies himself for a launch, it’s quite clear he’s making a significant effort to learn what he now clearly understands is one of the most under-appreciated angles of the jagged razor-edge issue of immigration—the angle that polling shows can help him clear the GOP field and easily eliminate Rubio and Bush, whose pro-open borders positions stand against American workers.
Rubio, the lead member of last Congress’ Senate “Gang of Eight” bill, supported increasing legal immigration by nearly 33 million more people in the next 10 years. Bush, an outspoken advocate for open borders, supports that and more—as evidenced by various comments he’s made over the years,and since being considered as a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate.
Rubio is having immigration problem in the wake of a Spanish-language interview he gave to Univision’s Jorge Ramos, in much the same way as during the Gang of Eight fight two years ago. Walker, on the other hand, is coming out surging on the issue as a modern-day populist sticking up for American workers against what’s essentially an unholy political establishment alliance between big labor and big business when it comes to immigration. Meanwhile, Bush is facing serious issues convincing Americans on the campaign trail that they should support yet another member of his family—him—for president, especially when he stands for special interests against ordinary Americans when it comes to things like immigration.
The Chamber of Commerce and several other big business special interests have locked step with big labor groups like the AFL-CIO to advocate for more foreign workers to be brought into America. Each has a different motivation, but generally business wants cheaper foreign labor and unions want more members. Factor into this that with an H-1B visa program fraught with problems—and even some blatant fraud—Silicon Valley is pushing for cheaper foreign high tech labor to be brought into America, even though most independent labor economists agree there is no labor shortage in those fields. So Walker could have found the golden grail issue that not only puts him on the right side of a policy prescription but on the side that will help him win politically.
Polling data from KellyAnne Conway’s the polling company and from Paragon Insights—a poll that was commissioned by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) last cycle—found that the stance Walker is now taking on immigration, a populist pro-American worker-first stance, is wildly popular with Republican, Democrat, and independent voters. What’s more, even though the left and political establishment may try to label Walker as “nativist” or “anti-immigrant”—and they certainly will—his position is pro-immigrant and celebrates those who have followed the process correctly to enter the United States of America in accordance with the laws of this country.
A piece from the Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson last week laid out just how important this issue is—and how Sessions has been standing alone defending Americans from the entire political class on it. Anderson questions whether anyone running for president on the Republican side will embrace the opening here—and it now seems Walker has taken the plunge and is going to fight tooth and nail on this front. “If there is anything that liberals and Big Business can seemingly agree upon, it’s that we don’t need an approach to immigration that benefits Main Street,” Anderson wrote in the piece last week. “It remains to be seen whether anyone running for president will seize this opening and buck the liberal-corporate consensus, but in the meantime Sen. Jeff Sessions has been ably holding down the fort against Democrats and Republicans alike.”
Walker, the guy who has succeeded in taking on the special interests behind enemy lines in the left wing bastion of Wisconsin, may be about to do something incredible on this front on the national stage. It’s only fitting that the interview in which Walker came out this strong on immigration began with him and Beck discussing how the Wisconsinite took on the left in their own backyard.
“Forgive us for being a little skeptical of somebody coming from the cradle of progressivism,” Beck opened the interview with Walker by saying.
“But being from Madison, Wisconsin, and being around this, does this make you more predisposed to it or make it easier for you to see it coming?” Beck asked. Walker described himself in response:
Deep, deep under fire and battle tested. I think I have extra layers of battle armor on there. You’re right: Madison, Wisconsin, which is kind of to the left of Pravda… it is the home of the progressive movement, the home of—AFSCME was started there, collective bargaining was started there… it was the state that had the first income tax. Who would have thought that that city and the state of Wisconsin that hasn’t gone Republican since 1984, we would be able to take on the public employee unions four years ago and not only win that battle but win the recalls against a whole bunch of state senators, win the recall against me and the lieutenant governor in the state, but now Wisconsin when it comes to public employee unions we have no seniority or tenure, we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance, we’re the 25th state in the nation to have Right-To-Work, we require photo ID for voting, we’ve defunded Planned Parenthood and pushed pro-life legislation and we’ve passed concealed carry and castle doctrine, we cut taxes by $2 billion—in fact property taxes are lower today than they were four years ago—who would have thought all that would happen? But we said shortly after the 2010 election that we had to go big and we had to go bold and it was put up or shut up time. Even in Madison, Wisconsin, we were able to get that done.
Looking forward to perhaps a time when Walker might become the president—depending on how he does in the GOP primary, then if he wins that the general election—the forces aligned against him standing up for Americans on immigration against the special interests will be stronger than he’s ever faced before on any of these other challenges. But he just might be capable at stopping them.
When Beck asked him what the “secret” to success on these battles—and on the election battlefield—was, Walker noted that to win critical independents “you don’t have to move to the center on the issues.” Walker added:
You have to lead.You have to clearly spell out what you’re going to do, tell the people what you’re going to do and then do it. A lot of times in politics people think that to win the middle and independents, that somehow independents are squishy or moderate. Most independents have just been burned too many times before and they’re not willing to commit to one party because they’re frustrated being told one thing and then people doing another. To lead, you don’t have to be with an independent on every single issue. You just have to look that person in the eye and tell them exactly what you’re doing to and sometimes that means telling them something that they won’t necessarily agree with but they’ll know on all the issues that you’re going to stand firm on what they do care about.