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Scott Walker: Where Is The GOP “Frontrunner” On Immigration?
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February 04, 2015, 06:12 PM
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Incredibly, it seems that Jeb Bush, the Establishment’s choice for the Republican nomination for President, is even worse than we thought on immigration [Past Bush immigration remarks shock conservatives, by Alexandra Jaffe, CNN, February 4, 2015]. Shocked conservatives are rallying behind Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is now leading polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire [Scott Walker grabs lead in N.H. in new poll, by David Sherfinski, Washington Times, February 4, 2015]. But Walker’s record on immigration is mixed, and patriots must be concerned about his record and rhetoric.

He once showed real promise. During his 2010 campaign for governor, Walker endorsed Arizona-style immigration enforcement laws and vowed to “sign legislation that strengthens our protection against illegal immigration” [Arizona-style immigration law to be up for debate in Wisconsin, by Pat Schneider, The Cap Times, March 9, 2011].

However, once Walker was elected, he announced immigration was a “huge distraction” which got in the way of his agenda to “create jobs, develop the workforce, transform the education system, reform government, and invest in infrastructure” [Walker says Arizona-style immigration bill would be ‘huge distraction,” by Dee Hall, Wisconsin State Journal, December 6, 2012]. Presumably he meant “developing the workforce” by transforming it into an entirely new group of people.

In 2013, Walker got even worse. He openly endorsed a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal aliens, and even added this bit of gibberish: “If people want to come here and work hard and benefit, I don't care whether they come from Mexico or Ireland or Germany or Canada or South Africa or anywhere else” [Gov. Walker backs citizenship pathway for illegal immigrants, by Daniel Strauss, The Hill.com, July 3, 2013].

That kind of talk is reprehensible. It obviously matters where immigrants come from, and what kind of character—if any—they bring with them. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a utopian, regardless of which party they are from or what they label themselves. Walker’s multicultural immigration drivel, if that were all he’s said on the issue, would seem to be an automatic disqualifier.

But like so many orthodox conservatives, there is no indication Walker has ever thought seriously about the issue or anything else that doesn’t have anything to do with reducing the cost of labor for corporations. And his appearance this past Sunday on ABC’s This Week seemed like more of the same, as Walker offered nothing platitudes like “We’re a country both of immigrants and of laws” ['This Week' Transcript: Gov. Scott Walker, ABC News, February 1, 2015].

Nevertheless, there is some reason for hope—at least more hope for Walker than there is for Jeb Bush. Late last year, Walker gave a series of interviews that seemed to reflect a new understanding (for him) that immigration hurts American workers.

Speaking about Executive Amnesty in November, Walker said: “You’re going to see a whole wave of people trying to come into America now, and that will affect people’s jobs, it will affect middle class workers, it will affect the unemployment rate in this country.” [2016 Contender Governor Scott Walker: Obama's Exec Amnesty Hurting Middle Class Americans, GOP Must Block Funding, Laura Ingraham Show blog, November 24, 2014]

This was a dramatic change of tune from Walker's previous immigration platitudes. And it did not go unnoticed by the Left—the vigilantes at Media Matters actually wrote an article about it [The Scott Walker Immigration Shift ABC News Ignored, by Alexandrea Boguhn, February 1, 2015.]

Similarly, on the very same Sunday talk show last week where Walker uttered his “country both of immigrants and of laws” guff, he expressed opposition to Amnesty. And he was not referring to Obama’s unilateral Executive Amnesty but to the idea of Amnesty more broadly.

RADDATZ: Let me turn to domestic issues and immigration. We know you want to fix the border and fix the immigration system, but what would you do about the 11 million undocumented who are still here?

WALKER: I think for sure, we need to secure the border. I think we need to enforce the legal system. I'm not for amnesty, I'm not an advocate of the plans that have been pushed here in Washington… But we've got to have a healthy balance. We're a country both of immigrants and of laws. We can't ignore the laws in this country, can't ignore the people who come in, whether it's from Mexico or Central America.

RADDATZ: But is deporting them possible?

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER: That's not what I'm advocating as well, but I do -

RADDATZ: You're not advocating?

WALKER: I am saying in the end, we need to enforce the laws in the United States, and we need to find a way for people to have a legitimate legal immigration system in this country, and that does not mean amnesty.

All things considered, Walker stuck to his guns on the law enforcement point. With Raddatz grimacing and fulminating, Walker remained on message. It might be noteworthy that instead of concluding that we need to “secure the border,” Walker said we need to “enforce the laws.”

Even those who support Amnesty can mouth support for securing the border. After all, that’s essentially what Republicans did in 1986. And it is disappointing that Walker did not mention strategic deportation or self-deportation. However, it’s worth noting that when faced with the “you can’t deport them all” argument from a nagging Raddatz, Walker did opt for the more hardline position.

Maybe this is only reading tea leaves, but Walker seems to have taken a big step away from supporting Amnesty, as he had in 2013. Rick Ungar [Email him] at Forbes mocked Walker for “turning tail” on his 2013 pro-Amnesty position on Sunday, but from our perspective, a retreat in the right direction looks like an advance. [Scott Walker Presidential Bid Self-Destructs on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ February 2, 2015]

Any Republican effort to win a greater share of white voters and pursue the “Sailer Strategy” will focus on states like Wisconsin. The state’s politicians are mixed. Of course, we know that Walker’s fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan is a Treason Lobby tool. But Senator Ron Johnson also has a relatively weak record. For example, in November 2014 Johnson said:

“As long as people, immigrants are here, working for their community, not committing crimes, not feeding off the welfare system, the reality of the situation is, I don't think those people will be deported.”

[The Evolution of Ron Johnson, by Sarah Mimms, National Journal, Nov. 24, 2014]

However, most of Wisconsin’s Congressional Republicans overall have a solid record on immigration. In Walker, we see these tensions over the state and the country’s direction in a single person. Walker is, of course, a Beltway Right darling noted for policies designed to appeal to Economic Man. However, he also is a politician who knows how to appeal to populism if he needs to, including immigration patriotism. And he is moving in the right direction.

The problem of course is that he has flip-flopped before; he is only moving closer to his original 2010 position. Many conservatives are supporting Walker because they seem him as a fighter and someone who can win. But while Walker is the favorite now, the contradictions in his record will become more important as Republicans look to coalesce around the “other than Jeb” candidate.

It might be time for Walker to show some of his political courage—and he has shown political courage, in fighting the government unions— by standing up for American citizens instead of illegal aliens.

If not, he may find that he has been too clever by half. After all, angry conservatives aren’t looking for a fighter for the Koch Brothers. They are looking for a fighter for the historic American nation.

Email Thomas Martel.