Gov. Scott Walker is used to taking heat from the left, but another apparent shift in his stance on immigration policy has earned criticism from fellow Republicans, with some wondering whether it could cost him the support of the billionaire Koch brothers.
In a radio interview on Monday with Glenn Beck, Walker appeared to move his immigration stance further to the right, indicating support for limits on legal immigration.
"The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages," Walker told Beck.
Walker told Beck that the potential effects of legal immigration on job availability and wages is a "fundamentally lost issue" for many elected officials.
It's not the first time Walker has appeared to change his mind about immigration, though it's the first time he's publicly cast doubts on the legal aspect of the process.
Meeting with the Wausau Daily Herald editorial board in 2013, Walker was asked whether he could support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
"Sure. Yeah. I mean, I think it makes sense," Walker said.
In February, he told Fox News' Bret Baier he had been misquoted. But eventually, in a March 1 interview with Fox's Chris Wallace, he owned the shift in his position. He doesn't support amnesty, he has said on several occasions this year.
Asked whether his position had changed since 2013, he said, "Absolutely. I look at the problems we've experienced for the last few years. I've talked to governors on the border and others out there. I've talked to people all across America. And the concerns I have is that we need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works. A legal immigration system that works. And part of doing this is put the onus on employers, getting them E-Verify and tools to do that. But I don't think you do it through amnesty."
Walker's comments to Beck drew fire from Republican strategist Liz Mair, who resigned from her post as Walker's digital strategist in March after some of her tweets about Iowa came under scrutiny.
"Sad to see the full, Olympics-quality flip-flop by a former boss today. I guess some people think they can do what Romney did in 08 + win," Mair tweeted on Monday.
"In any event, I’m extraordinarily glad I don’t have to defend a) that level of policy gymnastics or b) that specific dubious policy," she added.
Mair also offered this: "Interesting that it's being reported that Walker got the Koch nod today, bc I'm hearing that Koch folks really pissed re: imm flip-flop."
Hot Air's Noah Rothman noted that the stance Walker described on legal immigration is "squarely at odds with the Kochs' libertarian sympathies."
In his answer to Beck, Walker referenced Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, an immigration hawk who has advised Walker on policy.
Sessions backed up Walker's statement on Monday, Bloomberg's Dave Weigel reported.
"I thought it was a good statement that he made," Sessions said, according to Bloomberg. "He was just saying, 'I'm going to ask the question, what is it going to do for the wages and job prospects of my constituents, the American people, as I analyze how to create a proper immigration flow into America.'"
But other Republicans in Congress balked at Walker's remarks.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch told reporters he thought Walker's comments were "poppycock," Talking Points Memo's Sahil Kapur reported.
Arizona Sen. John McCain also disagreed with Walker.
"I think most statistics show that they fill part of the workforce that are much needed. We have, and I'm a living example of, the aging population. We need these people in the workforce legally," McCain said, according to Talking Points Memo.
In several media reports, AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Walker's political organization Our American Revival, qualified the governor's comments.
Strong said Walker supports legal immigration, but believes factors like workers' wages and the status of the U.S. economy should be considered when drafting policies.
According to TPM, McCain said he's worried statements from Republican candidates casting doubts on legal immigration could make the party appear anti-immigrant.
"Look, the reality is we are losing the support of the Hispanic community," McCain said, according to TPM. "The reality is the fastest growing part of our population in America is the Hispanic community. We need to address the issue. And we need to do it in a constructive fashion, or we do not win the 2016 election. I can't be more specific."