December 7, 2007

Huckabee Moves Right On Immigration

He got to show his sensitive side during the CNN/YouTube debate, and now he gets to show his toughness. Mike Huckabee released his immigration plan last night, and it moves him much more towards the enforcement-first position favored by most Republicans and some Democrats as well:

Released Friday, Huckabee's plan takes a tough stance — similar to those of his GOP rivals — though he has been more forgiving of some here illegally: As Arkansas governor, Huckabee attempted to make children of illegal immigrants eligible for scholarships and in-state college tuition.

Huckabee defended that Arkansas effort at a debate last month: "In all due respect, we are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did. We're a better country than that."

His new immigration plan does not address education, health care or other services provided to illegal immigrants that strain communities in early-voting Iowa and other places where people are angry about the issue.

Illegal immigration activists will find little objectionable in this proposal. Huckabee wants the border fence built by 2010 and the electronic virtual fence along with it. He declares himself opposed to all amnesty, and has a novel approach to declaration: no penalties will be applied to illegals who declare themselves here, return home, and reapply for entry, as long as they declare themselves within 120 days. Anyone who fails to do so will be barred for re-entry for 10 years.

Huckabee also envisions using economic policies to keep illegal immigration down. Employer sanctions form a key part of this; it looks like the Chamber of Commerce has lost the argument with the GOP on immigration. Huckabee also says the Fair Tax will form an "extra layer of security" by discouraging illegal immigration. Switching to a consumption tax will end the ability to avoid paying federal taxes through Social Security number fraud, and illegals will not be able to receive the monthly rebate checks, either. It may be indirect, but it's not a completely off-base argument, although the economic benefits are otherwise more than significant enough to offset the losses for illegals.

Will this be enough? Huckabee has been labeled as soft on immigration for months. That perception, especially after the last debate, may be difficult to reverse. Will the immigration activists welcome Huckabee as a convert, or disregard him as insufficiently reliable? With Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani earlier converts, he may have offered this new plan a little too late to make a dent on this issue among the passionate, but for those considering Huckabee on other grounds, this might be enough to tip them into his column.


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