John Edwards on Immigration

2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)

Health plan does not cover illegal immigrants

Q: Will your plan include the 12 million illegal immigrants?

A: No.

Q: So who pays if they get sick and wind up in emergency rooms?

A: What I have done is strengthen the safety net of the public health system so that our public health clinics, our public hospitals will always be available. If that is married to comprehensive immigration reform, so that people who are living here undocumented actually have a chance to become American citizens, then I think they’ve got the opportunity to become part of the plan. There are a couple things I want to say, though. Obama spoke--and he’s right about this--about the importance of us being straightforward and being honest during the campaign. The truth is that there are three health care plans represented on this stage. Two are universal; one is not. His is not. Clinton’s is, and mine is. In order for the plan to be universal, it has to mandate coverage for everybody.

Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate Jan 21, 2008

Create a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants

What we need to be doing is we need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to create a path for citizenship for 11 million to 14 million who are here undocumented. We need to give them a real chance to earn--I’m not for amnesty, but I am for being abl to earn American citizenship. I’m about to get to that. A couple of the requirements, in order to be able to earn American citizenship, are, first, if you came here illegally, we can’t pretend it didn’t happen. We are a country of laws and we believe in enforcement of those laws. So we have to show recognition of having violated the law, and that means payment of a fine. Second, I think if you want to become an American citizen and earn American citizenship, you should learn to speak English. We should help with that process. We should help make sure that those who are living here, and they’re not English-speaking as their first language, get a chance to actually learn English. But I think that should be a requirement for becoming an American citizen.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

Loss of middle-class jobs drives down wages, not immigrants

Q: You do not believe that illegal immigration is driving down wages. How can that be, if they’re being paid less?

A: The studies show is there are a lot of things driving down wages. One of those things is the loss of good middle-class jobs, which has been accelerated under this administration. And I think there are a variety of things that are contributing to that. There are a whole range of things that we need to do if we actually want to save the middle class and strengthen the American economy.

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR Dec 4, 2007

No short-term solution; need comprehensive reform

Q: Under an Edwards administration, what rights do immigrants have if they’re working without proper authorization come January 2009?

A: They’re in a very vulnerable position. What we want to make certain is that we are enforcing the laws that apply to employers. This is not a short-term solution. I wish there were a clear short-term solution that would be effective. The answer to this is comprehensive immigration reform. That is ultimately the answer.

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR Dec 4, 2007

H1-B visas only for jobs Americans can’t do

Q: What would you do as president: Expand H1-B visas or scale them back?

A: Well, the first point is, why is America not educating and training American workers to do these jobs? That’s the starting point. If American workers are actually competent to do those jobs, American workers should be doing those jobs. The whole purpose of the H1-B visa program is to bring people from other places that have to do jobs that we don’t have American workers to do.

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR Dec 4, 2007

End immigrant raids that separate parents from children

Q: Do you believe a moratorium on raids is needed and what would you do as president to help states like Iowa meet its labor force needs?

A: First of all, I [oppose] these raids, and particularly the way they are being conducted, separating parents from children. I think the bottom line is that we need to reform the laws for immigration in this country so that everybody has a real and meaningful path to citizenship.

Source: 2007 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum Dec 1, 2007

No driver’s license unless immigrants on path to citizenship

Q: Back in 2004, you suggested that you were for giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. At the debate in Las Vegas, you said, “I will move this country toward comprehensive immigration reform. And anyone who’s on the path to earning American citizenship should be able to have a driver’s license.” Has the position changed?

A: No, I don’t think it has. I mean, we want people to be licensed if they’re going to operate vehicles. If we have a path to citizenship, that anybody who’s on that path to citizenship, undocumented, should have a right to have a driver’s license. If they’re not making an effort to become an American citizen, then I think they shouldn’t have a driver’s license.

Q: What about in the interim? Should states be allowed to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants?

A: It is not the job of the president to make that decision. That’s for states to decide. I personally would not be in favor of that because I think we need to make this part of immigration reform.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer Nov 18, 2007

Oppose granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants

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

A: No, but I don’t accept the proposition that we’re not going to have comprehensive immigration reform. What I do support, and what I will do as president of the US, is move this country toward comprehensive immigration reform. And anyone who’s on the path to earning American citizenship should be able to have a driver’s license.

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

More technology at the border, but address underlying causes

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

A: The answer’s yes, I would commit to do it, not just in my first year, but at the beginning of the Edwards administration. I think the president has a responsibility to do something about this hugely important issue. You know, when you walk into a Blockbuster to rent a movie, you don’t see anybody, but you hear a voice saying, “Welcome to Blockbuster.” We can figure out when somebody’s walking into a Blockbuster. It seems to me we can figure out when somebody’s coming into the US, and especially if we use the technology that’s available to us. And I think that’s what the focus should be on: more Border Patrol, better use of technology, & absolutely a path to earn citizenship for those who are living here & who are undocumented. But we also have to get at the underlying causes of the migration from Mexico, which means addressing the issue of poverty, education, health, the reason that so many are coming to the US.

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

Undocumented workers deserve same rights as American workers

Q: Are undocumented immigrants necessary? Do you believe Americans will work on a farm 10 hours in 105-degree weather for only $8.50 per hour?

A: We should be proud of the fact that we’ve had so many workers come into this country who deserve a path to earn citizenship & who are working to support their families. They have made America richer, culturally more diverse, & they are performing jobs that, in some cases, would be difficult to find others to perform. They’re an important part of our economy. We need to not just recognize the economic benefits of these workers, but understand in many cases they are being abused, they are being taken advantage of, their rights are not being protected. And it is enormously important that we have comprehensive immigration reform so that those who in fact are working 10 hours a day in 105-degree heat have the same sort of worker rights that other Americans have. They are no less human, and no less value as human beings, and they deserve those same rights.

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

Enforce borders & employers, and allow earning citizenship

Comprehensive Immigration Reform:
Immigration is central to the story of America, but today our immigration system needs a fundamental overhaul. Our economy is harmed by an underground economy that features a large and unprotected labor force. And our values are violated by a system that keeps families apart and forces people to live in the shadows, vulnerable to abuse. The first step is to control our borders and stop illegal trafficking. We also need to crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants. At the same time, it is unrealistic to think that we can deport more than 12 million people. Edwards believes we need to give people here the opportunity to pay a fine and learn English to earn American citizenship.

Edwards will end the backlog of background checks for people who are already in this country and are applying to become lawful permanent residents and, eventually, citizens. Our immigration policies should bring families together, not keep them apart.

Source: Campaign website, www.johnedwards.com, “Issues” Sep 1, 2007

Roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

Q: Should it become easier for undocumented foreign workers in the US to gain legal immigration status?

A: We should reform the immigration system so there is a clear road map to legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants who work hard and follow the law. At the same time, we should work with our ally, Mexico, to better control the border and stop illegal trafficking.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “Immigration” Jan 25, 2004

Differentiate terrorists from the immigrants

Q: How would you distinguish or differentiate terrorists from the immigrants and visitors?

A: The whole notion of earned citizenship is something that I strongly support. I would expand the number of legal immigrants that can get into the country, which helps relieve some of this pressure that we have right now. Our relationship with Mexico and Pres. Fox is in the worst shape that we can imagine. And the result of that is, we don’t have the kind of security along our southern border that we need.

Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum Jan 11, 2004

Welcome immigrants with earned legalization program

I support policies that welcome immigrants and protect our security, including an earned legalization program for those who work hard and play by the rules.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Jan 8, 2004

Hard working immigrants earn right to citizenship

Q: There are communities in North Carolina that probably never imagined in 100 years that they’d have to hire an English-as-a-second-language teacher or have bilingual classes.

EDWARDS: Let me say a word about my personal experience with this issue. I grew up in a family where my father worked in a mill all of his life. And when I was young, we moved to a small town in rural North Carolina, which is where I grew up. That town is now half Hispanic.

My family moved to that town because my father, who has a high school education and is still living, believed that by working hard and doing the right thing that his kids would have the opportunity for a better life. These Hispanic families? They came to Robbins, North Carolina, for exactly the same reason. And those who came and live there, who work hard and are responsible, they have earned the right to be American citizens.

Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

Other candidates on Immigration: John Edwards on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010