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Huckabee on Immigration: Don't Punish the Kids

In a Wednesday interview with NPR’s On Point, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, an ’08 GOP candidate for president and a potential candidate again in 2012, said he did not favor repeal of the 14th Amendment — which grants citizenship to all children born on U.S. soil, regardless of their parents’ immigration status – and said that all children of illegal immigrants should have a path to citizenship. 

Asked if he would favor changing the Constitution, Huckabee said, “No. Let me tell you what I would favor. I would favor having controlled borders.”

He also spoke about illegal immigrants’ children who have come to the U.S. after birth. “You do not punish a child for something the parent did,” he told On Point host Tom Ashbrook. “…I’d rather have that kid a neurosurgeon than a tomato picker.”

Huckabee’s positions likely represent dividing lines in the GOP presidential primary. As the illegal immigration issue has flared up again in American politics, the issue of birthright citizenship has become a hot topic in GOP circles, as various people have called for its repeal or reinterpretation by the courts. (Listen back to On Point’s Monday segment on the issue.)

Here’s how Huckabee explained his defense of the rights of children of illegal immigrants:

TOM ASHBROOK: …In Arkansas, you were open to helping immigrants, and children…What about now? There’s an awful lot of pushback against that sort of position.

Mike Huckabee (AP)

MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, let me be clear, because I’m not for an amnesty program. Here’s what I did favor, and I still favor it, and this makes people mad at me…and if it does, so be it. But here’s the issue. When a kid comes to his country, and he’s four years old and he had no choice in it — his parents came illegally. He still, because he is in this state, it’s the state’s responsibility – in fact, it is the state’s legal mandate – to make sure that child is in school. So let’s say that kid goes to school. That kid is in our school from kindergarten through the 12th grade. He graduates as valedictorian because he’s a smart kid and he works his rear end off and he becomes the valedictorian of the school. The question is: Is he better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes? I think it’s better if he goes to college and becomes a citizen. So, I did support a bill in my state, and I would support it today. I don’t want anyone to think I’ve backed away from it – that you do not punish a child for something the parent did. And if in fact the provision in the law says that in order to obtain the scholarship, you have to be in the process of applying for citizenship and becoming legal, then I’d rather have that kid a neurosurgeon than a tomato picker. I’d rather him be a taxpayer than a tax taker. And for that I offer no apology.

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  • A.J.

    Gov. Huckabee said that the Stimulus had not worked. Huckabee said that there was proof that it had not worked: people were still out of work. YET: Huckabee CAN’T PROVE that it didn’t work: it may have prevented even MORE people from being unemployed!

    He speaks LIKE THAT: he uses his mellifluous voice and folksy metaphors to seem like he is making sound pronouncements; yet, he skews what he demands proof from (the Democrats), and what he does not demand proof from (all things Republican, and all things HE says “the American people” want!). IT IS SNAKE OIL, mellifluous SNAKE OIL!!!

    And, I’m a member of the “American people” and tho he claims to speak for me, he never speaks for me, even when he throws me into his pot with the snake oil, ready for serving up!

    I think that Tom Ashbrook is one of our most brilliant journalists! Yet, watch what happens when even a gifted, insightful media man like Tom misses just ONE step: Tom catches so many comments from his guests that must be questioned, but he missed asking Huckabee this question: “what proof do you have that the Stimulus package didn’t prevent an even worse economic situation?” That ONE slip, allowed Huckabee’s snake oil to continue to cook. NPR (& all media) MUST watch that it does NOT allow Equal, unchallenged air time for each party to stand for Fairness. It is not fair. When either party says something that is not accurate, members of the media MUST challenge the statement!

    And, beware: that inaccuracy might not be just a falsehood, or false representation, but it can ALSO be the inaccuracy of omission — and it is this last tweaking of accuracy, the “sin of omission”, that Huckabee and many Republicans trade in frequently. Don’t listen for the lie; listen for what’s missing: that’s where the inaccuracy & the spin is often to be found (the SPIN of omission!! hah!!)!!

  • Richard C. Russell

    I favor Governor Huckabee for the 2012 campaign, but I AM VERY MUCH OPPOSED TO HIS POSITION ON IMMIGRATION AND MAY BECAUSE OF IT, SHIFT MY SUPPORT ELSEWHERE. The majority of my ancestors came to America when it was still an English Colony, fought the crown and formed this great country. Tomato pickers who come here illegally have no rights, nor do their infant children to step in front of any other immigrants who have followed the law of the land in applying for citizenship. Brain surgeons or tomato pickers stay in your native country and improve it or get in the back of the line with everyone else who wants to be an American.

  • Patrick

    Well, what in the world are these children supposed to do? Go back to a land that they know absolutely nothing about and don’t even speak the language.

    Shame on the Federal Government for not doing the job that the U.S. Constitution requires of it in 2 different places – protecting the borders.

    Seal the borders. Border security = National security!
    (Good job, Mike Huckabee, for taking the only logical stance on the issue, regardless of any political cost associated with doing so. I remember that Huckabee IS for deportation of adults after a 120 grace period, as per his 2008 Presidential campaign. And he still does insist that these children are required to gain citizenship, in order to stay. When he becomes President, Border Security will be tight and these children will cease to arrive here through the illegal acts of their parents.

  • Patrick

    Well, what in the world are these children supposed to do? Go back to a land that they know absolutely nothing about and don’t even speak the language?

    Shame on the Federal Government for not doing the job that the U.S. Constitution requires of it in 2 different places – protecting the borders.

    Seal the borders. Border security = National security!
    (Good job, Mike Huckabee, for taking the only logical stance on the issue, regardless of any political cost associated with doing so. I remember that Huckabee IS for deportation of adults after a 120 grace period, as per his 2008 Presidential campaign. And he still does insist that these children are required to gain citizenship, in order to stay. When he becomes President, Border Security will be tight and these children will cease to arrive here through the illegal acts of their parents.

  • John

    While i consider myself a compassionate person, I am also to enforce our laws and follow our Constitution. Those who are here illegally should be deported and get back in line. Children of illegals, whether 1 or 41, should be deported as well.

    I would consider “special situation(s)”, where a child, age up to 22, could stay in school through being sponsored by private organizations. These private organizations would be responsible for the child’s room/board and ensure the child is set up for success. If during the time the child does not successfully fulfill his/her obligation, should be deported to his parents country of origin.

    Upon graduation, the child/adult, could then apply through normal immigration procedures.

  • Pat

    I like Mike Huckabee and many of his policies. However, it is time for candidates, republicans, and dems to take a stand FOR the United States. Huckabee, like many others, tends to want to stradle the fence on this issue. Illegal is illegal, if you break the law, you should not be given a pass. The democrates want to give these people amnesty so they can vote for the party. We have immigration laws that should be followed, but the politicians choose to roll out the carpet for these people who are a drain on our states and society. They have babies yearly, work, yet live on food stamps, WIC, and low rent programs all in the guise of “the children.” We Americans have to work for a living and get none of these entitlements. We need someone who will uphold the law in this country whether it’s poplular or not. I’m fed up with taking care of ILLEGALS.

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