In response to a reader request, today Smart Politics outlines the stands taken (or not taken) by Minnesota candidates on the issue of illegal immigration in the races for Governor and US Senator.
The gubernatorial race has been largely silent on the issue of illegal immigration during most of the past year, with neither Tim Pawlenty nor Mike Hatch emphasizing it as a top-tier issue. However, as immigration remains a Top 5 national concern, Republican Tim Pawlenty and his campaign have sporadically peppered their speeches since the summer with attacks against Hatch as being soft on the issue, variously accusing the Attorney General as both wanting to ignore illegal immigration as well as to encourage it.
In July 2006, Pawlenty demonstrated his support for more enforcement of the US-Mexican border by pledging up to 200 Minnesota National Guard troops to be sent to the border under the border protection program outlined by President Bush.
In late September 2006, Pawlenty also stated his support for photo-ID requirements at polling booths to prevent illegal immigrants from voting. The Governor also directed the Department of Public Safety to search the state voter registration database for names on a list of noncitizens' driver's licenses or other state ID cards.
But the immigration issue did not truly become a front and center issue in the race for governor until this past week when Pawlenty launched a television ad stating his opposition to a state tuition plan (previously addressed by the Minnesota legislature) that benefits the children of illegal immigrants.
DFL candidate Mike Hatch has been even more quiet on the issue of immigration during the campaign season than Pawlenty. However, forced to address the issue head-on this week, Hatch stated he does not back in-state tuition status for illegal immigrants. He has also recently accused Pawlenty, through a television ad of his own, of not cracking down on employers that hire and exploit illegal immigrants.
Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson is on record as favoring the "Dream Act" taken up by the Minnesota legislature in 2005 (this law would have permitted high school graduates who are illegal immigrants to gain in-state status for college tuition if they lived in Minnesota for at least three years).
No gubernatorial candidate has explicitly taken a hard-right stance on illegal immigration (e.g. discussing deportation of illegals).
In the US Senate race, all three candidates have outlined their general stances on the issue on their official candidate websites, as immigration continues to rank as a top-tier national concern of Americans nationwide. But how important is immigration to Minnesotans' vote choice? In a mid-September 2006 Humphrey Institute survey, immigration ranked as only the 8th most important issue (2%) to likely voters. The issue ranked behind Iraq (21%), health care and Medicare (15%), the war on terror and homeland security (12%), taxes and government spending (10%), the economy and jobs (5%), moral issues and family values (4%), and the election as a referendum on President Bush (3%).
Republican Mark Kennedy has a clear record of taking a very strong stand against illegal immigration, such as supporting legislation as a member of the US House for building a fence on the border, banning criminals from becoming U.S. citizens, increasing enforcement of laws against and penalties for employers who hire illegals, requiring new citizens to pass an American history test in English, and demanding new citizens pledge undivided allegiance to the American flag. Kennedy states:
A country that can't control its own borders can't control its own destiny. We are a nation of immigrants and should welcome legal immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. A nation that does not enforce its laws, including immigration law, is inviting abuse of all its laws. Where I come from, good fences make good neighbors. Our first approach to a comprehensive immigration reform must begin with securing our borders, not looking for the fastest path to amnesty.
The DFL's Amy Klobuchar states her position on illegal immigration as follows:
I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform. We need to put security of this country first - when there are people waiting to get into this country legally, we must make sure that we prevent people from entering illegally. We need more border security, including fencing and other controls. We must enforce immigration laws, crack down on corporations who hire illegal workers and we must end the amnesty for employers who prey on these people. Finally, we should look for ways to allow those who have been in the country for many years, who are willing to learn English and who are paying taxes and fines to earn their citizenship.
Klobuchar echoed these three points in Sunday night's debate at St. Thomas—emphasizing border security, employer penalties, and an earned path to citizenship.
Independence Party candidate Robert Fitzgerald outlines his approach to illegal immigration thusly:
The interests of US workers define our economic needs. Guest worker programs are proposals for government-sponsored apartheid, creating a sub-class of workers without rights or ability to participate in our democratic process. Instead, secure the border, train Americans for 21st century jobs, and enforce same-pay laws for immigrants.