GRAHAM: Yes. It's one thing to say, as an executive agency, "I don't have the money to prosecute everybody or to deport everybody, so I'm going to rank them in order." It's another for the president of the United States to say, "not only will I decide not to prosecute a group of people, but I will affirmatively give you legal status." That is well beyond executive action.
Q: So what to do?
GRAHAM: Immigration has been dogging the country since 2006. I have a solution that I have been supporting that is comprehensive, that would allow legal status to the people in question. But you do it through a congressional action, where you get the entire system fixed. His action does not secure the border. It doesn't fix a broken legal immigration system. And it leaves millions of people left out in terms of the 11 million.
GRAHAM: Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that it's national security, that's cultural and it's economic. The Senate has done this three times. I love my House colleagues, but if you want a piecemeal approach, do it. But doing nothing? I'm disappointed in my party. Are we still the party of self-deportation? Is it the position of the Republican Party that the 11 million must be driven out? I have never been in that camp as being practical. I am in the camp of securing our borders first, fixing a broken legal immigration, have an E-Verify program so you can't cheat.
Q: Isn't the president saying, "you have got to deal with the 11 million?"
GRAHAM: No, he decided not to delay prosecution, but affirmatively granted legal status to five million people.
SANTORUM: I'm concerned about the working men & women of this country. We have wages stagnating. And who are the vast majority of [those being granted amnesty]? Unskilled workers. The president is putting close to 5 million more unskilled workers in the workplace, plus an additional 1.1 million every year legally coming into this country.
Q: But what's the Republican plan?
SANTORUM: We need immigration control in this country.
Q: Everyone agrees on securing the border. But what about the 11 million here?
SANTORUM: I'm talking about people here and people that are scheduled to come. The bottom line is, the last 20 years have been the largest wave of immigration in the history of this country. There are more people living in this country who were not born here than at any other time in the history of the country. And what the president is saying is, "we need more." And working men and women are saying, "Hold on. How about us?"
CRUZ: All across this country, Republicans campaigned, saying: if you elect a Republican Senate, we will stop President Obama's illegal amnesty. We need to honor what we said. We should use the constitutional checks and balances that we have to rein in the abuse of power of the executive. Step #1 is if the president implements this lawless amnesty, that the Senate will not confirm any executive or judicial nominees.
CRUZ: We should use the constitutional checks and balances that we have to rein in the abuse of power of the executive. Step #1 that I have called for is the incoming majority leader should announce if the president implements this lawless amnesty, that the Senate will not confirm any executive or judicial nominees, other than vital national security positions, for the next two years, unless and until the president ends this lawless amnesty. That is an explicit authority given to the Senate.
Q: Are you saying the Senate should refuse to confirm the president's new nominee for attorney general?
CRUZ: We have to rein in the executive. In the Federalist Papers, our Framers talked about a president who would behave like a monarch. And step #2, we've got is the power of the purse, and we should fund one at a time the critical priorities of the federal government, but also use the power of the purse to attach riders.
FIORINA: Showdown. Because it only helps Obama and hurts the American people. But what they should do is systematically and soberly pass a series of bills to solve a decades-old problem. And they should point out to Hispanics all over this nation that this president has taken advantage of them. He sunk comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. He did nothing to push forward immigration reform when he had the Senate, the House, and the White House. He said in '11 and '12 he couldn't do anything. And then he delayed his action for the elections. Unbelievable cynicism.
ROMNEY: My advice to the Democrats--and to the President in particular--is: take a breath. The President said that he was not on the ballot in the election that was just held but that his policies were. And the American people sent a very clear message: they're not happy. The President ought to let the Republican Congress come together with legislation which relates to immigration. And he can veto it or not, as opposed to doing something unilaterally and in a way which is extra-constitutional. He's making it more difficult for there to be a permanent solution to this issue. What he's proposing to do is a temporary solution which would potentially be reversed by a Republican President. It's the wrong way to go. It doesn't help the people that are really are hurt by the lack of policy in this area. And it's going to set back the needed reforms that the American people want.
RUBIO: I think that we have to deal with immigration. We have a broken enforcement system on immigration. We have a legal immigration system that's outdated and needs to be modernized so we can win the global competition for talent. We have millions of people living in this country illegally, many of whom have been here for a decade or longer. We need to find a reasonable but responsible way of incorporating them into American life. Last year we tried to do that through a one-size-fits-all comprehensive approach; it didn't work. We don't have the support for that. The only way we're going to be able to address it--and I believe we should--is through a sequence of bills that begins by proving to people that illegal immigration is under control, modernizing our legal immigration system and then dealing with those who are here illegally.
PERRY: Well, here's what I know is happening. Almost six weeks ago, we surged into that area of operation with our Department of Public Safety, our Texas Ranger Recon Teams, our Parks and Wildlife. We brought real attention to the issue. We're sending messages back to Central America that you should not send your children hereby. They're not going to be able to walk across the border. We talked powerfully about surging the National Guard into that area as well. So, I would suggest to you that the issue here really goes back to that rule of law, if you will. We're not securing the border as the Constitution calls for us to.
(VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: If, in fact, House Republicans are concerned about me acting independently of Congress, despite the fact that I have taken fewer executive actions than my [predecessors], then the easiest way to solve it is pass some legislation. Get things done.
Q: So, is that the solution?
PERRY: Well, here's what I think is very important for Washington to understand: You're not going to have comprehensive immigration reform until the border is secure. The American people do not trust Washington to do these two things at the same time. They expect the border to be safe & secured. They want to be able to live in their communities and feel like they're safe. And if this president does not do what's required to secure the border first, I will suggest to you: whatever he does is going to be a failure.
RUBIO: Well, I don't think that's an accurate assessment. We have an unsustainable situation on the border. The only way to address that is to address the root causes: a combination of violence, instability & poverty in Central America. But it's also, according to the president of Honduras, ambiguities in our laws--beginning in 2008 with a very well-intentioned law to prevent human trafficking--and then it continued in 2012 with the president's deferred action program. Those two things have allowed trafficking groups to go into Central America and tell people that America has some special law that's going to allow them to come here and stay, and that's serving as a lure that's driving this crisis.
PERRY: What we are concerned about are the 80%-plus of individuals who don't get talked about enough that are coming into the US illegally, and committing substantial crimes. Since 2008, we have seen 203,000 individuals who have illegally come into Texas, booked into Texas county jails. And these individuals are responsible for over 3,000 homicides and almost 8,000 sexual assaults. That's the reason that we are deploying 1,000 National Guard troops, to try to make communities safer, and that is my goal.
Q: Governor, a number of fact-checkers have said that that 3,000-homicide figure is wildly off.
PERRY: Let me go back to those numbers. I do stand by them, by the way, but what are the number of homicides that are acceptable to those individuals? How many sexual assaults do we have to have before Washington DC acts to keep our citizens safe? That border is not secure. It's time for us to secure that border.
REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I do. Otherwise the humanitarian crisis will continue. Otherwise families in countries far away, on the other side of Mexico will be giving thousands of dollars to traffickers to take their children over the border and the humanitarian crisis will get worse. So I do believe we need to amend this law, which never intended for this to happen, to make sure that you can treat people in noncontiguous countries just like we do Mexicans and Canadians so that we can stop this crisis.
GRAHAM: There will be no money for supplemental [budget bills] without changes in the 2008 law. We have to streamline and quicken deportations. There'll be no immigration reform because of the crisis on the border. I blame Obama for this moment. But in 2015, if we start over, and the Republican Party doesn't get immigration reform right in 2015, our chances in 2016 of winning the White House are very low.
PERRY: Well, I think there's plenty of blame to spread around, but when you're the President, you are at the tip of the spear. I go back multiple years in the past: we've drawn attention to the problems on the border. We've asked for 1,000 National Guard troops for over four years from this administration. As a matter of fact, in May of 2012, I gave the President a heads-up on what was happening with these unaccompanied children, these alien children who were coming in on the tops of trains. And we laid out exactly what we felt was going to happen if we didn't address that, and now we're seeing that become reality. It could have been stopped years ago, had the administration listened, had the administration been focused on the border with Texas.
PERRY: It is a problem of monumental humanitarian impact. This is like a triage, if you will. If you have a patient that is bleeding profusely, the first thing you have to do is stop the bleeding, and that's the reason we have been so adamant about securing the border. Very quickly, that message will be sent to those Central American countries that you cannot send your children up here; you cannot catch a train or a bus or be coyoted up here, as you will, to walk across the border and you're freely going to be able to stay in the US. That was the message for years and months from this administration, that's what they saw and that was the message that went back.
PERRY: They could help push forward a show the force, if you will. The president was not even aware that his border patrol was 40 miles away from the border. They need to be right on the river. They need to be there as a show of force, because that's the message that gets sent back very quickly to Central America.
Q: But national guards are not allowed to apprehend any of these children that are crossing, are they?
PERRY: Well, the issue is with being able to send that message, because it's the visual that I think is the most important. Their conversations are being monitored with calls back to the Central America, and the message is, "hey, come on up here, everything is great, they're taking care of us." My point is, you bring boots on the ground to send that message clearly, both visually and otherwise. At that particular point in time, I think this flow from Central America gets staunched by a substantial margin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: The federal government is just absolutely failing. We either have an incredibly inept administration, or they're in on this somehow or another. I mean I hate to be conspiratorial, but I mean how do you move that many people from Central America across Mexico and then into the US without there being a fairly coordinated effort?
(END VIDEO CLIP) Q: Governor, do you really believe there's some sort of conspiracy?
PERRY: I have written a letter that is dated May of 2012, and I have yet to have a response from this administration, I will tell you they either are inept or don't care, and that is my position. We have been bringing to the attention of President Obama and his administration since 2010, [about the] huge problem on our southern border--I have to believe that when you do not respond in any way, that you are either inept, or you have some ulterior motive of which you are functioning from.
PAUL: I think that everyone needs to be for some form of immigration reform because the status quo is untenable. I think that if we do nothing, 11 million more people may be coming illegally, so we have to do something. But here's the conundrum, I think the conundrum that is really being pointed out by the children being dumped on the border right now--there's a humanitarian disaster of 50,000 kids being dumped on this side of our border. It's because you have a beacon, forgiveness, and you don't have a secure border. I am for immigration reform, but I insist that you secure the border first because if you have a beacon, of some kind of forgiveness, without a secure border, the whole world will come.
PAUL: I think that that's the whole point: What is amnesty? Because, [for those who say] "no deportation and no amnesty," well, if you're not going to deport people you are somehow changing the current law because the current law says everybody must go.
Q: But you've said that the party should give up this word "amnesty"?
PAUL: I think we need to get beyond it. We need some form of immigration reform.
Q: And a path to citizenship?
PAUL: Well, the path to citizenship is a longer, more difficult goal.
Q: But you don't rule it out as an end game?
PAUL: What I would say is that at this point in time I don't think any type of immigration reform will get out of Washington that includes a path to citizenship. But I do think that there is a path to a secure border and an expanded work visa program.
In the missive, dated April 23, King tells Boehner that a "confluence of events" makes immigration reform possible, including a path to citizenship coupled with "strong and real" border security and enforcement measures: "It would be in our country's national interest as well as the interest of our party if this could be achieved," King wrote.
King calls for the "strongest language" possible that would compel President Barack Obama and future administrations to comply with whatever border-security laws that lawmakers write. Security measures included in the Senate Gang of Eight bill, as well as a separate House border-security bill passed through a House committee last year, provide a "good base" to start from, he said.
"As to the issues of legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants, I fully understand and appreciate the argument that illegal behavior should not be rewarded," King wrote. "The reality though is that we are not going to deport 11 million immigrants."
The letter, which has not been widely released, was obtained by POLITICO and confirmed by King's office.
(VIDEO CLIP): JEB BUSH: Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love.
Q: Do you agree with him on this?
PAUL: You know, I think he might have been more artful, maybe, in the way he presented this. But I don't want to say, oh, he's terrible for saying this. If it were me, what I would have said is, people who seek the American dream are not bad people.
Q: Even if they came into this country illegally?
PAUL: They are not bad people. However, we can't invite the whole world. When you say they're doing an act of love and you don't follow it up with, "but we have to control the border," people think well because they're doing this for kind reasons that the whole world can come to our country.
JINDAL: On immigration--look, I've said all along that people that want to come into this country, work hard, get an education, that's good for them, that's good for us. There's nothing wrong with Republicans in congress saying let's secure the border first. If this president was serious about moving forward with comprehensive approach he would start by securing the border. We don't need a thousand page bill. It's not complicated. Right now, we have low walls and a narrow gate. That is opposite of what we need, we need a high walls and wide gate, so that more people can come in to this country legally.
RYAN: We don't know who's coming and going in this country. We don't have control of our border. We don't have control of interior enforcement. Here's the issue that all Republicans agree on--we don't trust the president to enforce the law. So if you actually look at the standards that the Republican leadership put out: first we have to secure the border, have interior enforcement, which is a worker verification system, a visa tracking program. Those things have to be in law, in practice and independently verified before the rest of the law can occur. So it's a security force first, non-amnesty approach.
RYAN: This is not one of those issues where it has some kind of a deadline behind it, like, say, a government shutdown, which forces us into a compromise we might not like to take. This is a "here are our standards; this is what we're willing to do." And we're still having a debate in our caucus about even that. But we don't think that we can allow this border to continue to be overrun. And if we can get security first, no amnesty, before anything happens, we think that's a good approach. This is not a trust but verify, this is a verify then trust approach.
Q: Can you put something on the president's desk that he can sign?
RYAN: I really don't know the answer to that question. It depends on whether we can do that, where it's security first, no amnesty, then we might be able to get somewhere.
JINDAL: When it comes to immigration, we've got a completely backwards system today. What I believe we need is a system of high walls and a broad gate. Right now, we've got the opposite. We've got low walls and a narrow gate. What I mean by that is we make it very difficult for people to come here legally. We make it very easy for people to come here illegally. As the son of immigrants, I think we should let more people come in to our country legally, because it's compassionate for them and because it's good for us. When people want to come here, work hard, play by the rules, that's good for America. And so, I think that this is a problem we can address. I think our system right now is completely backwards.
JINDAL: Well, if Republicans act, I think we should do it because it's the right thing to do for the country, not because a pollster tells us. Look, right now, we're educating some of the world's best and brightest; then we kick them out of our country to compete with us. I do think it's right to say we need to secure the border first. I think the American people are compassionate. I don't think we're the kind of people that are going to kick people out of schools or hospitals or punish kids for what their parents have done. But I think it's also right the American people are skeptical. We've seen this play before. We remember what happened in the 1980s. So, we have to secure the borders--and I mean, let the border governors certify it as secure. Let's not measure it in terms of just dollars spend or effort expended. Let's actually look at results. Once we do that, I think there is broad agreement on legalization.
SANTORUM: That's a very tall order. I've never seen that done in Congress. I mean you get these big bills and that's how these things pass. And it's very, very hard to get all those component parts together and get a consensus, particularly when you have a president who has been as, uh, vindictive as this president has been in attacking his Republicans on a variety of issues.
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