Sounds a Lot Like Amnesty

De ja vu all over again? The 2008 presidential contest offered voters a choice between a Democrat whose solution to the illegal immigration problem was amnesty and a Republican whose solution to the illegal immigration problem was amnesty. During last night’s GOP presidential debate, four of the candidates offered plans that sound a lot like amnesty (though, of course, the word never passed their lips).

Three of them, Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain, were asked specifically how they would deal with the millions of illegal aliens who are in the country. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Gov. Jon Huntsman raised the issue without being asked. The other three, Governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, and Rep. Ron Paul responded to a general question about immigration and did not volunteer an answer about what they would do about the existing illegal alien population.

Here in their own words are excerpts of the responses given by the candidates who were asked open-ended questions about immigration:

Gov. Rick Perry: [T]he first thing you need to do is have boots on the ground. We’ve had a request in to this administration since June — or January of 2009 for 1,000 border patrol agents or National Guard troops, and working towards 3,000 border patrol…For the President of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas, and say that the border is safer than it’s ever been, either he has some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country, or he was an abject liar to the American people. It is not safe on that border.
Gov. Mitt Romney: The reason they come in such great numbers is because we’ve left the magnet on…[W]hen employers are willing to hire people who are here illegally, that’s a magnet, and it draws them in. And we went in and talked about sanctuary cities, giving tuition breaks to the kids of illegal aliens, employers that, employers that knowingly hire people who are here illegally. Those things also have to be stopped. If we want to secure the border, we have to make sure we have a fence, technologically, determining where people are, enough agents to oversee it, and turn off that magnet. We can’t talk about amnesty, we cannot give amnesty to those who have come here illegally.
Gov. Jon Huntsman: I hope that all of us, as we deal with this immigration issue, will always see it as an issue that resolves around real human beings. Yes, they came here in an illegal fashion. And yes, they should be punished in some form or fashion.
Rep. Ron Paul: Obviously, it’s a very big problem. I think we need to remove the incentive — easy road to citizenship. Nobody has mentioned the fact that they qualify for benefits as well, you know, the welfare benefits…But every time you think about this toughness on the border and I.D. cards and real ideas, think that it’s a penalty against the American people, too.

Here in their own words are excerpts that encapsulate the views of each of the candidates who responded to a direct question, or who volunteered a view on dealing with current illegal aliens:
Question: Speaker Gingrich, your perception on immigration reform? And you’ve been, I think, in some ways, a little different on your initial positions.
Speaker Newt Gingrich: And then find a way to deal with folks who are already here, some of whom, frankly, have been here 25 years, are married with kids, live in our local neighborhood, go to our church. It’s got to be done in a much more humane way than thinking that to automatically deport millions of people.
Question: So there are 11 million people that — fait accompli. They’re here. What do you do with them if you are able to secure the border?
Sen. Rick Santorum: Well, I think we can have the discussion, that whether what we do with people, how long they’ve been here, whether they had other types of records. But to have that discussion right now and pull the same trick that was pulled in 1986 — we said, well, we’ll promise to do this if you do that — no more. We are going to secure the border first, and that’s the most important thing to do, then we’ll have the discussion afterwards.
Question: What do you do then with 11 million people, as the Speaker says, many of whom have U.S.-born children here? What do you do?
Rep. Michelle Bachmann: Well, that’s right. And again, it is sequential, and it depends upon where they live, how long they have been here, if they have a criminal record. All of those things have to be taken into place.
Herman Cain: (Responding to the same question posed to Rep. Bachmann.) [L]et’s promote the path to citizenship that’s already there. We don’t need a new one, we just need to clean up the bureaucracy that’s slowing the process down and discouraging people.

You can read the full transcript of the precise questions and responses of all of the candidates here. Also, check out YouTube for the video of the immigration portion of this debate.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    Mitt Romney, the so called Rhino, seems to have the most effective and pro-America outlook on it. That’s IF he actually does what he says here, which you never know.

  2. avatar

    This is not amnesty. It is a cheap magic trick turning hope into votes.

    The Obama administration prosecutorial discretion announcement is, to use his term, kicking the can down the road. It takes chosen cases and back burners them. They do not get squat. They sit and wait for congress to pass some type of law giving them legals status. Don’t hold your breath.

    This was a smart albeit slimy move. Obama looks like Pancho Villa. Republicans are left looking like the anti undocumented bad guys. If they win the presidential election in 2012 the either reopen the cases for deportation, or they continue the same back burner fiasco.

    We need our own peaceful revolution to bring Washington to its senses.

  3. avatar

    I think some of us have been stopped at DWI check points. When illegal aliens are stopped at them they should be detained until deported, no bond/bail or OBAMA get out of jail free cards. Same thing should happen if police are called to a loud party. Any where local police find them detain them until they can be deported.

    God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

  4. avatar

    My ancestors have been in this country since the early 1600’s They have fought in many wars for the right for American citizens not for illegals to come here and destroy our American dream so they can have theirs. Mexico blames Americans for their drug cartel problems by telling us they would not have one if we were not strung out on their drugs; yet they cowtowed to the cartels many years before. We are told by numerous lobbyist for the illegal immigrants that we need these 7 to 20 million illegals because we Americans are so lazy and will not work. They say that if the illegals left our country this country would come to a standstill. Well I personally would welcome that standstill. It would be great to hear English for a change in the stores and not Spanish announcement or step over five or six wailing children rolling around on the floor while mom and/or dad ignore them. Our schools would not need bilingual classes to catch up all these children where parents do not allow them to speak English nor do the parents want to learn English themselves. Why should they when President Clinton ordered everything to printed in Spanish. There is no incentive nor need for them to learn…. And if you read Reuben Navarrette’s column we Americans need to learn Spanish. He promised we would not become Mexican if we did and we could communicate with all the Hispanics!
    Frankly I am tired of all the crap being put forth about the joys we would all have by just making all 7 to 20 million illegals instant citizens and all their families and all of their relatives all over the world. To bad all the social programs will be totally drained by then……and we would have so many more reasons to learn Spanish.

    Yeah, I would welcome that complete standstill America………

    • avatar

      My ancestors have also been in this country since the 1600’s. I am not Hispanic. I voluntarily teach English to Mexicans who seek out our program to learn English. The program was started by Barbara Bush. I am extremely familiar with all aspects of the immigration issue. When careful consideration is given to all angles of the issue it always comes out in favor of these immigrant workers. Remember contrary to popular belief they add billions to the coffers through taxes, using our goods and services etc. I am not naive I know of what I speak!

      • avatar

        Did you bother to read ANYTHING presented on this website about such claims as yours? The net effect is negative, not positive, economically, and socially it’s not even close to positive.

        Most low wage workers pay NOTHING in federal income taxes. If you make $22,000 and have a wife and three kids, you get $5600 back in an “earned income tax credit”, so you don’t even pay any FICA taxes after you consider that.

        You also get access food stamps, home programs, daycare programs, and various other social programs. There was recently a study that showed some families making $15000 have more disposable income than others making $60,000 who are not on the various programs for the poor.

        Barbara Bush started a program for political purposes to appeal to the 38% of Texans who are Latino and because her son’s big business contributors like their cheap compliant labor to be able to speak English.

    • avatar

      Navarette says we should learn to speak spanish. If we want to learn spanish we have to pay for the courses. If the hispanics want to learn English they get to go to free classes held in school districts that are paid for by our tax dollars. We lose all the way around. This is America and we speak English they should have to conform to our ways and learn English not the other way around.

      From someone who is totally fed up with the way our government is nudging three countries into becoming one with the borders as the ocean that surrounds us.

  5. avatar
    Elizabeth Van Staaveren on

    I think Gov. Romney clearly gave the best answers to immigration questions. All the others are squishy and ambiguous, or plainly for amnesty; even Michelle Bachmann’s reply was unsatisfactory and showed a leaning to amnesty. Thanks, FAIR, for giving link to transcript of the debate as well as the interesting, informative summary of the immigration questions by Ira Mehlman.

  6. avatar

    I am so fed up with illegal this and illegal that. They are illegal period. I can go to NONE of their countries without a passport. If I do, I will be jailed.

    I don’t care about the humane part of it. There is not one of them that didn’t commit a crime–mainly, coming here illegally. So no one should be exempt. I don’t care how long they have been here, We have a giant waiting list for real legals.

    It was thought the the boomers would overwhelm the systems with just 175 million. Now we have over 300 million. It is time to downsize.

    The proponents can’t even get their stories straight. boo hoo, they don’t speak English, but boo hoo they are denied a college education????? What brain drain if we send them back? We can grow our own or emigrate qualified people.

    this crap of every country dumping their “waste” in our backyard needs to stop. Notice that these are mostly people from socialist types of countries. Go home, fix your own country. Please quit making the legal ones here the bad guys. They waited and waited and waited. They separated their families. Many even got an education in their own country first. Too bad about the separation of families. US does it all the time, it’s called the military, work, divorce, death you name it, we have families separated–even welfare ones.

  7. avatar

    For over thirty years our presidents and congress have thrown a magic blanket over Illegals, letting them work cheap for U.S. industries and Ag people, allowing them to come into the U.S. in torrents,

    Now, that THEY have manufactured this terrible crime against the American middle and poorer classes, taken jobs
    away from us by the millions, THEY SAY, “It wouldn’t be compassionate to remove these criminals and their families from the U.S, and that “WE” must give them amnesty, that we can’t possibly eradicate ’10 million’ people.

    Truth is, we must only take their jobs away, fine businesses who hire them $1000 a day for ea hiree, for each day
    they continue. to work. Without jobs, they will have to go backs to their countries of origin, No problema.

    The old Congresses and Senates that brought the Illegal Alien problem to voters should be held responsible. Our middle class should not stand still for the candidates you have portrayed, Santorum, Perry, Gingrich…

    • avatar
      MaryAnne B. Phillips on

      My family and I came here from Poland legally, We all learned English, no one translated for us and spoke it in public. Those hispanics who invade my country have a superiority complex and those in Congress and the White House cater to them and I don’t understand why. Their attitude of entitlement is destroying the morality within this nation and the federal government is not only refusing to enforce the law but is thwarting the efforts of Americans to reclaim our country. Illegals are receiving tax refunds, welfare, food stamps and bilingual education. When I wrote complaining of the IRS’s failure to report illegals, I was audited and fined for making an early withdrawal from my IRA. I provided a letter from the ERS and have not received any monies back and Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn have refused to assist me, claiming that there are no resources for it. They do find the time and resources to send foreign aid, enact dream acts and hold hearings for baseball players over the use of steroids.
      Americans need to do the job of the federal government and round up illegals ourselves and make sure that they are not released by the courts. We obviously cannot depend on the government to do so. What will have to be done is what the Minutemen are doing and it needs to be done all throught the country, not just the borders. This is a soverign and English speaking country with citizens who deserve much better than we have received. If any person agrees, please e-mail me at

    • avatar
      MaryAnne B. Phillips on

      I do not believe that there are 10 million illegals in America. This is a lie politicians tell us to avoid the issue and also tells of the contempt in which they regard their legal constituents. We Americans must handle this problem ourselves and not only at the southern border. We have been subjected to enough and need to take a stand ourselves or the courts will only release those criminals back on our streets. Just as the Minutemen did at the beginning of our country and just as the Minutemen are doing now, we need to patrol our streets and escort all those illegals our of America and eliminate the dial one for Spanish and two for English, bilingual education and Geraldo Rivera permantly.

    • avatar

      Our Washington “leaders” and I use that term lightly have sold Americans down the river and began to do so shortly after the 1986 amnesty by not closing the loopholes as promised. Now there are hordes of mostly Mexican citizens here demanding “their rights” and their part of the American dream while American dreams are crumbling. Truth is our government will never honor the current laws that should stop this huge and continuing influx of illegals but will not. And the federal government will not allow states to defend themselves either. I always hear from my Congressional representatives that we just cannot break up these poor illegal families and we are a nation of immigrants. None of my immigrant ancestors abused the system as these illegal immigrants have done. Our country is near bankruptcy, our natural resources are being depleted at an astonishing rate and yet we have these illegal immigrants marching for their rights.

      Frankly they should go home and save their own countries. Leave ours alone! Why can’t we deport those 7 to 20 million that are here illegally? Roads go both ways. But our religious leaders and our bleeding hearts representatives with all the lobbyists that benefit by this influx of illegal immigrants are shoving them down out throats.So Bruce and all the others American citizens that think the illegals are ruining our country should continue the good fight and send them home. I keep hearing that these illegals are contributing – Ha! If you believe that I’ve got some swampland I need to sell to you.

  8. avatar

    Hey I don’t want out.I want my country back.I’m tired of having to waste my time listening to “press 1 for Spanish, 2 for English! What are we doing? I’m tired of speaking to tech reps from India who I can not understand. They (gov) should charge $1 for every business call that goes to India.Balace the budget, no but maybe get some money in the treasury and maybe bring back a few jobs to out Tech reps! I want to see a lish of each country we give foreign aid to and how much! I want to know how much money and for how long we give it to immigarants here, no matter how or why they came.Just how much (bet its more than many widows on SS are getting!! and they are talking about cutting that! I want all this giving to non citizens stopped. All welfare to illegals, stopped. All foreign aid… stopped! I want the phone lines to India TAXED just like the outrageous taxes on my cell phone! We are giving it all away. Find new congressmen to elect who are for America first. Then elect them. Stop this maddness!

    • avatar
      MaryAnne B. Phillips on

      I am 100% against foreign aid. We owe nothing to any other country. I know that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas is 100% for foreign aid as is Senator Rubio of Florida and sincerely hopes that no presidentail candidate will want him for a running mate. We need to take our country back not only from illegals but from the federal government, We need to organize as those who declared America free from Britain and just as the Minutemen and those patrolling our southern border have done. We are a sovereign nation and can no longer allow the elected to represent us as they treat us with disdain and contempt. If you are in agreement with me, please e-mail me at

  9. avatar

    What is it? Nobody wants to speak up. You would think illegals are thier future constituents. Maybe they are, it certainly is’nt any of it’s us law abiding tax paying citizens here that they care about. I am ready to leave this country- problem is all the other countries have strict immigration laws. Looks like if we want out, we are screwed.

    • avatar
      MaryAnne B. Phillips on

      The way the Harry Reid got re:elected was by blasing the airways with ads and by busing in illegals. Voter fraud got Al Franken elected. Illegals were also used in Washington state. Americans must organize and remove all illegls ourselves. I am talking about the Minutemen type of organization; we must guard our borders and escort all those illegals to the border ourselves or the courts will release them. If you agree and want to organize, please e-mail me at

    • avatar
      MaryAnne B. Phillips on

      America is a sovereign nation and we need to take it back from the politicians and court system that constantly release and rewards illegals with benefits that only Americans should be eligible to receive but usually are denied. Please contact me at if you want our country returned to Americans. Those we elect treat us with scorn and have been immune and it is way past time to change that. We need to police our nation and return illegals to South America ourselves or the courts will release them to the welfare and food stamps they have become accustomed to receiving.

    • avatar

      I like what Romney said about not giving amnesty to those who are here illegally. I see that as a positive change over his past positions.

    • avatar

      No we are not screwed. Don’t run away. Keep fighting for our rights in this country that the congressional reps want to give away. This is war right here at home where we must make our wishes known and stick by our guns in the voting booth. Send them packing this election.