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Exclusive — Rick Santorum Lays Out Plan To Reduce Immigration By 25 Percent

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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a likely 2016 presidential candidate and the winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses, wants to separate himself from the rest of the Republican field. So he’s explaining a specific plan to reduce immigration levels to the United States in order to protect American workers from foreign labor. Santorum also praised Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another likely 2016 presidential candidate and the current frontrunner according to most polls, for standing with him to protect American workers against a foreign labor increase.

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“I think it’s important if you’re going to talk about an issue—if you look at everything I’ve done in my post-public career, I’ve been very, very specific about not just the rhetoric, but also exactly what policy is behind it,” Santorum said.

I’ve been talking about this immigration issue for a while and I noticed that Gov. [Scott] Walker has decided to join the discussion of legal immigration and having to reform that—I welcome him to that point of view and I know that’s not a point of view he’s held in the past, but I’m glad he’s adopted that.

So I thought well it’s probably time we get more specific on where to go with this to set a bar. I always try to set a bar and move people in the right direction—and if you look at the polls, the blue collar conservative message when you talk about manufacturing and things like that, you see a lot more people moving in our direction on how important that is and I have specific policies out there to set the bar.

In an op-ed for Breitbart News on Wednesday, and in this exclusive interview, Santorum said his plan is to reduce immigration from about a million immigrants per year—the current level—down to about 750,000 per year. He said this is part of his effort to help blue collar American workers get back to work and thrive economically.

“Immigration is very much a part of that discussion—and when you talk about the reduction in immigration, the level of immigration I picked specifically is because that’s the level of immigration that was roughly the amount of people that came in during the great wave,” Santorum said.

We had about 750,000 people, immigrants, come into this country from the 1880s to the 1920s. That was the highest level of immigration into our country up until the last 20 years. So I thought that’s a good benchmark—and let’s return back to the highest level previous to that [current levels] of immigration.

Santorum said his position is not “anti-immigrant,” despite what open borders activists claim. “If it this were anti-immigrant, I’d say zero,” Santorum said.

I’d say someone who wants to double legal immigrants would also be anti-immigrant then—why? Because they’d want to put limits on the numbers too. The question is not whether you’re anti-immigrant or pro-immigrant, it’s what the appropriate level should be. If you were for no limits, then you could make the argument that anyone who’s for any limits is anti-immigrant.

But that’s not what the argument here is—the discussion here is what is the appropriate level? I don’t think any responsible candidate on the Republican or Democratic side would say we should have no limits and let tens of millions of people into this country. I don’t think people would take that position and if they did I don’t think they would get very far with it. So the question is what is appropriate?

Santorum said the issue here is that Americans are struggling economically, and there needs to be a focus on getting them back to work first before bringing in new people to compete with them.

“When you look at the economic situation we’re confronting, there are Americans who are—as I mentioned in the piece, of the 74 percent of the Americans who don’t have a college degree and are competing with the unskilled workers who are coming into this country who are obviously willing to work for less—you’ve got to address that issue,” Santorum said.

What we’ve talked about is a fairly modest response to that, it’s not a 50 percent cut—it’s only about a 25 percent cut to the amount of legal immigrants coming into this country. If you look at the jobs created since 2000 for people who are age 18 to 65 every single net new job created in America for that workforce is held by someone who wasn’t born in this country.

There are actually fewer native-born Americans working in this country today than there was in 2000, 18 to 65, and there are 17 million more in the workforce. That to me lays out a problem. I think immigration is a healthy thing for this country, but just like anything else there can be too much of a good thing.

Santorum said that with Walker and now former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee talking about protecting American workers from cheap foreign labor increases, the Republican Party needs to lead and have a frank discussion and open debate about these issues.

“I think it’ll be—and to look at the issues including this, there aren’t that many issues that will divide the Republican candidates in this race,” Santorum said.

At least among those who are announced or talking about announcing. You’ve got Common Core, you’ve got the issue of immigration, you’ve got like what Mike Huckabee wants to do a national sales tax, so you do have some issues that are dividing—I’ve taken a focus on manufacturing—but bottom line, there’s not a whole lot of difference on national security. With Rand Paul there’s a big difference, but I think with most of the folks it’s going to be a matter of experience and knowledge rather than it is function. You look at the issues that will separate us, and this is one that will separate.

With regard to Huckabee’s stance in favor of American workers in his announcement speech in Arkansas earlier this week as well, Santorum said “like I said, imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” Huckabee’s point in his announcement speech was that the Democrats’ big government policies with the so-called “war on poverty” haven’t worked, and a way to fix these problems for all Americans—rural, urban, suburban—is conservative economic populism in the likes of what Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has been putting forward in Congress. Asked about that idea—the need for economic populism from a conservative perspective—Santorum talked about his book, “Blue Collar Conservatives” and noted that’s “the whole point” of the book.

Republicans, Santorum said, need to “keep what’s really good about Republican economic policies—which is the fact we’re a pro-growth party and we understand the economics of pro-growth economics and limited government and need to have growth and development.”

I have a chapter in my book—a Rising Tide Lifts All Boats Unless Your Boat Has a Hole In It—and we have lots of Americans who because of a variety of issues like incarceration or lack of education or mental or physical problems, there’s a variety of issues out there that many of the millions and millions of Americans have that are limiting their opportunities to rise. We have to pay attention to that. We have to look at how we can create opportunities for everyone and that’s why looking at immigration, looking at education, looking at manufacturing, construction, energy—all those things that provide that opportunity for lower-skilled workers has been a focal point of mine in the last campaign and certainly is now.

Santorum said he’s close to getting ready to announce whether he’ll run again for president in 2016, too.

“You’ll be hearing some news soon,” he said when asked if he’s close to announcing a run for president again. “You’ll be hearing an announcement here in the next month or so.”

Santorum will be one of the featured speakers at the South Carolina Freedom Summit this weekend in Greenville, S.C., and came in second place in the Republican nominating contest in 2012–winning Iowa and several other states.


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