Here’s some of what the Republican presidential candidates said about securing Arizona’s border with Mexico when they were asked about the issue at their CNN debate in Mesa:
Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul: “The weak economy ... and the welfare state” are encouraging people to come illegally because they can get health care benefits and U.S. educations. “We reward illegal immigration.” Asked directly by CNN moderator John King, Paul said it’s “probably not” worth it to spend $3 million per mile for secure fencing. He said illegal immigrants should be arrested for trespassing the minute they step on private land in the U.S.
Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: “The further we’ve gone with the fence ... the fewer people have broken into California.” He supports a double fence and said he has a plan to waive all federal regulations and studies to meet a Jan. 1, 2014 deadline he’s set for that plan. He said he would be willing to move up to half of 23,000 Department of Homeland Security employees working in Washington, D.C. to the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Gingrich said he supported President Reagan’s immigration reform law in 1986, which included employer sanctions and a guest-worker program. “We got short-changed on every item we were supposed to get,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe a comprehensive bill can pass now and so we should go “one step at a time.”
Earlier in the debate, Gingrich volunteered that “It’s utterly stupid to say the U.S. can’t control its border. It’s a failure of will, a failure of enforcement. What if the president, instead of suing Arizona, helps Arizona?” he asked, giving his own answer: “It’s a lot less expensive in the future, to hospitals, school systems, to prisons, if you control the border.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: “You see a model here in Arizona,” where there is a state law requiring employers to use E-Verify to be sure their employees are in the country legally. Since that law went into effect, he said, the number of illegal immigrants in Arizona “has dropped 14 percent versus the national average of a 7 percent drop.” Romney said the federal government “should drop these lawsuits against states ... like Arizona that are tring to do ... what Barack Obama won’t do.”
He called for finishing the fence, making sure there are enough Border Patrol agents, requiring E-Verify nationwide and imposing employer sanctions for hiring of illegal immigrants. “You can stop illegal immigration ... It’s time we finally do it,” Romney said.
Earlier in the debate, in talking about his record in Massachussetts, Romney said he “enabled our state police” to enforce immigration laws. (Media including USA Today have reported that Gov. Romney signed a federal memorandum allowing state troopers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants.)
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: He was asked by CNN’s King whether regular citizens who hire illegal labor in their homes as nannies, for instance, should be penalized. “I’m not going to require homeowners to do E-Verify,” he answered. “I think that’s taking it one step too far.”
Santorum called for more detainment and deporting. He wasn't given as much time to answer the question as Gingrich and Romney were.