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Bill Richardson on Immigration

Democratic Governor (NM); Secretary of Commerce-Designee


Allowed giving driverís licenses to illegal immigrants

Q: In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, do you support driverís licenses for illegal immigrants?

A: My answer is yes, and I did it. Because the Congress and Bush failed miserably to pass comprehensive immigration. My legislature sent me a bill. I signed it. My enforcement people said itís a matter of public safety. What we need is public safety, a reduction in traffic fatalities. When we started with this program, 33% of all New Mexicans were uninsured. Today, itís 11%.

Source: 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada , Nov 15, 2007

Driverís license for illegals helps public safety

Q: As governor, you signed a law making New Mexico one of only eight states in the country that allows illegal immigrants to get driverís licenses.

A: Four years ago, the legislature sent a bill to me and, at the request of my law enforcement leaders, I signed it, which allows licenses for undocumented workers. The reason I did this is because thereís a failure of an immigration law in the Congress and the president. Itís a matter for us in New Mexico of public safety on the roads. At the time that I signed the bill, 33% of drivers were uninsured. Today itís 11% uninsured. This law has helped.

Q: Is there any security provision in the law, anything, that prevents illegals from using these driverís licenses that you give them to get on airplanes, like many of the 9/11 terrorists did?

A: There are valid certificates of identification that they have to provide to the motor vehicles department of New Mexico. I believe itís the right decision for my people. What we need is comprehensive immigration

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 ďChoosing the PresidentĒ interviews , Nov 11, 2007

Declared state of emergency in NMís four border counties

Because of his Mexican roots and his governorship of a border state, Richardson is in a position to play a particularly important role in the politics of immigration.

In 2007, he first supported Bushís compromise plan, which calls for a fence on the Mexican border & a controversial guest worker program, plus a plan that allows illegal immigrants living here to buy their way to citizenship. Then he reversed himself and took a stand against the fence.

In general, he argued that whatever happens on the border should be aimed at keeping families together and not breaking them apart. But he also seeks to show that he is tough on illegal immigration, highlighting ďsecuring the borderĒ as the first point in his immigration plan and pushing for increase enforcement on the Mexican as well as the US side. In 2005, Richardson declared a state of emergency in New Mexicoís four border counties, which released $1.75 million in state funds for overtime pay to local forces to fight illegal immigration.

Source: The Contenders, by Laura Flanders, p.186-187 , Nov 11, 2007

We pay for immigrant healthcare; have them pay into system

Q: Will your health-care plan cover illegal aliens?

A: Well, today, weíre already paying for undocumented workers when they go into emergency rooms. Itís the law. Under my plan, what you would do is everybody that pays into the system would be covered. Now, what we need is comprehensive immigration reform, which the Congress and the president refuse to do, which would set the appropriate standards for health care. On immigration, what we need to do is secure the border, & secondly, those that knowingly hire illegal workers should be punished. Third, there has got to be a stronger relationship with Mexico so that they donít send their poor to our country. And lastly, an earned legalization process where you establish those standards. Like, you donít give them amnesty, you donít give them automatic citizenship, but if they learn English, if they pay back taxes, embrace American values, pass a background check, they can stay and eventually apply for citizenship.

Source: Huffington Post Mash-Up: 2007 Democratic on-line debate , Sep 13, 2007

Increase H-1B visas to permit more skilled workers

Q: Would you change visa policy with respect to people who come here to study and might be willing to stay if they had their visas?

A: Yes. That means H-1B visas, that means looking for workers in this country that we need in certain sectors. This mean focusing not just on illegal immigration, but legal immigration. Thereís a huge backlog of enormously talented people and workers that, because of red tape and bureaucracy, canít get in, especially in the computer sector, especially in health-care areas. Yes, I would. Those H-1B visas, I believe, need to be increased to permit more skilled workers to come into our work force. This enhances our competitiveness.

Q: What have you learned about education as governor?

A: What Iíve learned is that I am hands-on. I have hands-on experiences that a lot of these other candidates donít. They all have their 10-point plans. Iíve actually done a lot of good things in education that involves helping a child and making us more competitive.

Source: Huffington Post Mash-Up: 2007 Democratic on-line debate , Sep 13, 2007

Border wall is horrendous example of misguided policy

Q: Would you commit to immigration reform during your first year of the presidency?

A: Yes, I would do it my first year. I want everybody to look at the Statue of Liberty. This symbolizes freedom, diversity, and that weíre a nation of immigrants. This is what we need to do in immigration my first year.

  1. Yes, more border security, technology at the border.
  2. A stronger relationship with Mexico and Central America, to create jobs so that flow doesnít come here.
  3. Enforce the law. Those that knowingly hire illegal workers should be punished.
  4. But what is fundamental is a path to legalization, a path to citizenship for the 12 million that are in this country that just want to make life better for the families.
  5. This wall is a horrendous example of Washington misguided policy. Congress only funded half of the wall. And in addition that, if youíre going to build a 12-foot wall, you know whatís going to happen? A lot of 13-foot ladders. This is a terrible symbol of America.
Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on Univision in Spanish , Sep 9, 2007

Federal raids are ineffective; we dehumanize immigrants

Q: Some 60,000 families have been separated in federal raids. Would you be willing to suspend the raids?

A: Yes, I would, because it shows that a dysfunctional relationship between the Congress and the president caused the breakdown of a potential compromise. Now we have to wait till 2008 and 2009, and these raids are ineffective, theyíre a symbol of whatís wrong with a broken immigration policy. I also object to the fact of dehumanizing immigrants. You know, when the media pictures them crossing the border, swimming across a river, doing something like jumping a fence--why donít they depict the Latinos that today are fighting for America in Iraq and are dying for this country, or the Congressional Medal of Honor winners? And I object to the dehumanizing of people that are part and that want to be part of an American dream.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on Univision in Spanish , Sep 9, 2007

Sanctuary cities ok until we have comprehensive policy

Q: Would you allow ď sanctuary citiesĒ to ignore the federal law and provide sanctuary to these immigrants?

A: The answer is yes. The problem we have is the lack of a comprehensive immigration policy. This is a federal responsibility. We need to fix the immigration system that is broken. We need to first find ways to increase security at the border with more detection equipment, more border patrol, not this silly wall.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College , Sep 6, 2007

Include same-sex couples in binational marriage sponsorship

Q: Under our current immigration laws, one spouse can sponsor another to become a US resident. Same-sex couples are not covered by this law. What would you do to help binational gay couples torn apart by the current immigration system?

A: I believe that when you have expansion of domestic partnership, of civil unions, it should be to all people, regardless of where you are -- overseas, underseas, anywhere. Thereís a bill [proposing this] in Congress, which I have already said I would support.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues , Aug 9, 2007

Comprehensive reform needed; but McCain-Kennedy bill flawed

Q: Are you happy that the compromise, bipartisan legislation, which Pres. Bush, Sen. Kennedy & Sen. McCain all endorsed, has effectively collapsed?

A: No, Iím not happy, because I wanted them to push comprehensive legislation and fix the main problems. And the main problems were a fence between Mexico and the US, which I think is not sustainable. Secondly, they had an amendment that broke up families; third, a lack of labor protections when it came to the guest worker program. It makes sense to have comprehensive legislation, but they have to fix that main provision, the flaw in the bill that breaks up families. Thatís not been the standards in our immigration laws in the past.

Q: And if they revise that, would you support this compromise?

A: Yes, I would. If they take care of the not dividing up families, if they get rid of some of those provisions relating to the wall, look at this wall, dividing two countries up.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Jun 10, 2007

McCain-Kennedy bill is not amnesty; it has strong standards

The Republicans have been promoting this policy of fear, that the McCain-Kennedy bill is an amnesty bill. This is not an amnesty bill. In fact, in the provisions in the legislation, what you see is, itís going to take almost 12 years for citizenship, nine years for a green card, almost $9,000 in fines, no criminal record. Theyíve got to learn English. Thereís some strong standards there.
Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Jun 10, 2007

A wall on Mexican border is not America

Look at this wall [on the Mexican border], dividing two countries up. Like Ronald Reagan said when he went to Berlin, he said, ďMr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.Ē Thatís not America. Letís have more Border Patrol. Letís double the number of Border Patrol, more technology.

But right now, this is one of the most pressing domestic issues because it divides this country. It has 12 million people living under the shadows.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Jun 10, 2007

A wall divides families and doesnít solve the problem

Iím a border governor. Two years ago, I declared a border emergency because of the tremendous flow of drugs and illegal workers coming into my state. I deal with this issue every day. Hereís my position: I would not support legislation that divided families. I would not support legislation that builds a wall, a Berlin-type wall between two countries, the way the bill in the Congress exists today. Now, what are the essential components of any good, sensible immigration bill? One, increased border patrols--double the size of border patrols and technology. That makes sense. Donít reduce the National Guard thatís there. Secondly, an earned legalization program. Yes, I support that, one that is based on learning English, paying back taxes, passing a background check, getting behind those that are trying to get here legally, obeying laws and bracing American values. And then lastly, finding ways that we penalize employers that knowingly hire illegal workers. That is essential in an immigration bill.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

The 2007 immigration bill is not an amnesty bill

The 2007 immigration bill is not an amnesty bill because it sets standards that I mentioned--learning English, passing background checks. Thereís a touchback provision--the head of household has to go back and then apply. I believe that is unworkable. It divides up families. But you donít immediately get an amnesty, you donít immediately get citizenship; itís a process that takes about 13 years. They should have labor protections. We donít want to create a permanent underclass in those workers.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

Opposes compromise immigration bill: it tears apart families

Q: The newspapers reported last week about the compromise immigration bill that ďRichardson praised the bill, [saying] ĎThis legislation makes a good start towards re-securing our Southern border.íĒ A few days later we heard, ďRichardson said that after reading the immigration bill in detail, he decided to oppose it, saying the measure placed too great a burden on immigrants, tearing apart families that wanted to settle in the US, creating a permanent tier of second-class immigrant workers and financing a border fence. ĎThis is fundamentally flawed in its current form and I would oppose it.íď How can you be for it and 72 hours later against it?

A: I saw a summary that contained essential elements: 1) Tougher border security. Thatís good. 2) A legalization program for the 12 million that are here. 3) It also contained penalties for employers that knowingly hired illegal workers. I thought that was all good. The bill is then presented & I read it the next day, and it contained those problems.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 ďMeet the CandidatesĒ series , May 27, 2007

Border fence hasnít worked; border patrols & tech have

Q: Has the border wall worked?

A: No, it hasnít worked. This wall is a terrible symbol between two countries that are friends. If we have a 10-foot wall, thereíll be 11-foot ladders going over that wall.

Q: Anywhere along the border, the fence hasnít worked?

A: It hasnít worked. What has worked is more border patrols. What has worked is some National Guardsmen. What has worked is some technology. Itís made the program better. But weíve got to talk to Mexico, our friend, get them to do more. In fact, get them to stop giving maps to illegal workers on the most porous areas. And we also need to raise the legal immigration limits, the backlogs of workers that we need--H1B visas for job competitiveness skills.

Q: In New Mexico, you declared a border emergency, and yet youíre against the fence. It seems as if youíre on both sides of the issue.

A: Iím a governor. I have to deal with this issue every day.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 ďMeet the CandidatesĒ series , May 27, 2007

Driverís licenses & scholarships for illegals; not amnesty

Q: You were for illegal immigrants obtaining driverís licenses, and you were for illegal immigrantsí children getting college scholarships.

A: A driverís license helps with traffic safety; they all get insured; they donít leave the scene. On education: yes, if they fulfill the same academic requirements, to be eligible for a scholarship. I believe we have to bring the 12 million undocumented workers out of the shadows, set up a standard where they speak English, if they pass background checks, pay back taxes, obey the laws, embrace American values, give them a chance, a path to citizenship, not amnesty.

Q: That is amnesty.

A: No, it isnít amnesty.

Q: Would you send them back?

A: They have to go back, under the law, to reapply.

Q: But you would want people who came here illegally to be able to stay here with their legally-born children?

A: Yes, over a 12-year period.

Q: Is that rewarding breaking the law?

A: They have to pay a fine for breaking the law.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 ďMeet the CandidatesĒ series , May 27, 2007

Legalization plan, not this stupid wall being proposed

Q: One of the most controversial aspects of the plan that Gov. Schwarzenegger just recently unveiled in California is his proposal that illegal immigrants be covered under his plan.

A: We should cover children, as long as [their parents] pay their fair share with everybody else. An essential component of my plan is that we all pay: Employers, employees, the government. But we help each other pay the fair share. The way you deal with immigration, one, yes we have to secure our borders, no question about it. Not with this stupid wall that is being proposed. But you also set up a legalization plan for the 12 million undocumented workers that are in this country. Maybe itís not very popular, but it makes sense based on setting a path to legalization that involves dealing with issues like health care that involves if they learn English, if they pay back taxes, if they pass a background check. They donít get ahead of the line of those that are trying to get here legally.

Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas , Mar 24, 2007

Declared state of emergency on Mexican border

In Aug. 2005, Gov. Richardson declared a state of emergency on the New Mexico-Mexico border to ensure that law enforcement officers received the resources they need. He made $1.75 million in state funds immediately available to assist efforts in policing the border. New Mexico then agreed to allow the National Guard to deploy to the border. New Mexico is still waiting on the Federal government to fulfill their commitment to send 265 Border Patrol agents to the New Mexico-Mexico border.
Source: 2006 Gubernatorial website, billrichardson2006.com, ďIssuesĒ , Nov 7, 2006

Path to legalization if illegals pay taxes & learn English

Gov. Richardson believes we can strengthen our borders and still deal fairly with those who want nothing but the American dream. The only realistic solution is to create a path to legalization for immigrants who are paying taxes, learning English, and contributing to our society. He also believes that the US must engage Mexico and build up its border economy to make a better life possible for Mexicans in Mexico. Also, a plan to crack down on employers who knowingly violate the law is imperative.
Source: 2006 Gubernatorial website, billrichardson2006.com, ďIssuesĒ , Nov 7, 2006

Reduce immigration; no automatic citizenship for kids

Source: 1996 Congressional National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1996

Guarantee human services to illegal immigrants

Source: 1996 Congressional National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1996

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Page last updated: Mar 09, 2014