Scott Walker's mixed messaging on immigration

2014-07-15T07:30:00Z Scott Walker's mixed messaging on immigrationJACK CRAVER | The Capital Times | jcraver@madison.com madison.com

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continues to chart a middle path on the issue of undocumented immigrants.

At a meeting of the National Governors Association in Nashville this weekend, Walker bemoaned the dramatic increase in unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. illegally, saying that the thought of the dangers such children risk to cross the border almost brings him “to tears.”

“You think of the trauma these kids are going through to get here, and you think of the trauma before that,” he said. “I put them on my own personal prayer list.”

Walker did not directly answer the question of what should be done with immigrant youngsters, saying only that simply releasing them into American society is problematic.

“If they go with people without legal status, our concern is that these children will just suddenly be gone and we’re not going to see them and that’ll just encourage more kids to come,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Walker did not suggest any solutions.

"Obviously, this is a heartbreaking humanitarian issue," Walker spokesperson Jocelyn Webster told the Cap Times. "However, this is a federal issue for which the federal government must find a solution."

The compassion Walker is voicing for the refugees echoes his initial response in 2010 to the controversial law passed in Arizona that empowered police officers to demand immigration papers from those suspected of being in the country illegally during arrests, traffic stops and other “lawful contacts.” Critics said the law would inevitably lead to racial profiling and harassment of Latino residents.

"I have serious concerns about the Arizona law — both because the law impedes on the inherent right of the federal government to do its job and to protect our borders, and also because in America we don't want our citizens getting pulled over because of how they look," said the initial statement from the then-Milwaukee County executive, who was in the middle of his first campaign for governor.

But after Mark Neumann, Walker’s opponent in the Republican primary, attacked him on the issue, Walker quickly walked back his initial position, saying he had researched the Arizona law further and would be “comfortable” supporting a similar policy in Wisconsin.

Since becoming governor, Walker has made clear that he is not interested in enacting such a law. In December 2012, he told reporters that although he wouldn’t promise to veto a bill passed by the Legislature, he would exert his political influence to make sure that the legislation never came to a vote.

“I think that would be a huge distraction for us in the state,” he said. “There’s our niche and our priorities. I don’t think that falls into one of those priorities, so I would certainly hope that the Legislature didn’t spend time focusing on that, instead focused on the economy.”

If Walker hopes to be a viable presidential candidate, there are a couple of significant political forces that will guide him towards conciliatory rhetoric on immigration.

The first is that, as Walker and other top Republicans have acknowledged, the GOP’s association with anti-immigrant sentiment has deeply wounded the party’s ability to court Latino voters, an increasingly large segment of the American electorate. George W. Bush, who pushed unsuccessfully for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, won 44 percent of Latino voters in 2004, but Mitt Romney, who was forced to talk tough on immigration during a competitive GOP primary, only mustered 27 percent of Latino votes against Barack Obama in 2012.

Also, many of Walker’s most influential financial backers in the business world, including the Koch brothers, favor less restrictive immigration policies. The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which is closely aligned with many of the “free market” pressure groups that have spent millions promoting candidates such as Walker, famously proposed a constitutional amendment in 1984 declaring, “There shall be open borders.”

The political force that keeps Walker from endorsing immigration compromises are the Republican primary voters, a strong contingent of whom are hostile to candidates who appear friendly to any immigration policy that could be described as “amnesty.”

Although Neumann’s attempts to seize on this dynamic were unsuccessful in 2010, other candidates in primaries have used the immigration issue against moderate or “establishment” Republicans to great effect. The most prominent example came last month, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was ousted in a primary by an upstart tea party challenger who highlighted Cantor’s past support for immigration reform.

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(14) Comments

  1. Wis_taxpayer
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    Wis_taxpayer - July 15, 2014 8:26 pm
    Deport everyone who isn't native American!

    notice I said native American and not American; The United States doesn't have a problem with native Americans.
  2. Wis_taxpayer
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    Wis_taxpayer - July 15, 2014 6:31 pm
    Wisconsinites who have a heart would welcome them with open arms!

    It's the heartless that want Obama to violate the Bush law that requires they stay here and be processed....

    That's right... the BUSH LAW!

    or is that just another inconvenient truth you don't want to talk about....

    Go ahead and blame Obama for following the BUSH LAW and see how far that gets you!

    First Republicans want to sue Obama for being lawless.... then they demand that Obama be lawless!

    And you wonder why your party may never hold the white house in the near future?
  3. Wis_taxpayer
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    Wis_taxpayer - July 15, 2014 6:26 pm
    Maybe next thing we will see is Walker and Hannity in a gun boat floating down the Wisconsin River ready to protect Wisconsin from the evil invasion..... of children!
  4. qpwoeiruty
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    qpwoeiruty - July 15, 2014 4:53 pm
    And how about this? The immigration system is racist and biased.
    Almost all the kids are Latino/Catholics. It doesn't cost that much to bus your kid from central America to the border, but from Palestine it would be super expensive. This immigration policy favors only one religious/ethnic group.
  5. qpwoeiruty
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    qpwoeiruty - July 15, 2014 4:24 pm
    Of course the kids won't be just let go. Doesn't anybody realize that once the kid gets to stay the whole family can? This is all planned by the parents. They spent a little money and shipped their kid to the Sates. Now they wait as our politicians waffle about.
  6. WI_Expat
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    WI_Expat - July 15, 2014 12:23 pm
    Want the illegal immigration to become real and tangible????

    How about shipping 2000 or so from one of these boarder detention centers up to Madison....use some university facilities to house them.

    But then again, the plan may already be in the works. The Federal Government just hasn't told you yet.
  7. lute
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    lute - July 15, 2014 10:42 am
    “It almost brings me to tears thinking about these children,” said Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker. “You think of the trauma these kids are going through to get here, and you think of the trauma before that. I put them on my own personal prayer list.”

    The false and self serving suggestion of tears and prayers by our governor, the sociopath. Despicable.

    http://time.com/2979525/governors-divided-on-how-to-handle-border-crisis/
  8. dante
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    dante - July 15, 2014 9:42 am
    "Being in the middle" is far different than refusing to say what you would do if you were president.

    Ducking the question seems to be pretty much par for the course these days with Republican candidates, as Christie has done exactly the same thing. Gotta love politicians who criticize current policy but offer NOTHING in return.
  9. snootyelites
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    snootyelites - July 15, 2014 9:38 am
    You got Obama telling he will legalize Dreamers and that sent a message to rest of the world to drop their kids at America's door step. If it was done through organized adoptions it's one thing. These kids are at immigration detention centers instead and are bussed to various cities with great deal of opposition. This is a failed policy of a failed President that most of Madison voted for.

    Immigration was the winning issue/strategy for Democrats. Now they are running from it like no tomorrow.

    Immigration is a federal matter. Both Tammy Bakdwin & Mark Pocan went into hiding on this issue so much so Tammy Baldwin's staff stopped helping legal immigrants.

    Walkers opinion is irrelevant as we are not even a border state governor.
  10. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - July 15, 2014 8:55 am
    There is no easy solution for this complex situation.

    The polarization of politics is whats wrong with politics.

    Walker cant make reasonable comments b/c its not one way or the other. Being in the middle is not a bad thing here. We can build a wall and keep everyone out and we can keep every illiegal entry in America.
  11. AllAmerican11B
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    AllAmerican11B - July 15, 2014 8:45 am
    Nav,
    I see you are just like The Cap Times, who never misses a chance to take a shot at Gov. Scott Walker. Please tell us Mr. Nav, what is your permanent solution to the complex illegal immigration problem we have in the United States?

    Please note I did not say immigration problem, I said illegal immigration problem; the United States simply doesn't have a problem with legal immigration.
  12. bobbyk1950
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    bobbyk1950 - July 15, 2014 8:27 am
    apparently Walker will use it for every single "issue". "It's a non-issue. I don't even think about it. The Republicans don't think about it". By the way, the 'middle class' is fleeing Wisconsin in droves, take a look around most places and start counting the 'for sale' signs - it's becoming real estate row most everywhere but Mequon and Madison. Result: low class people are gettin' the middle class jobs and guess what - Wisconsin farmers and dairy folk, bistros and fast food, have stated they need workers - immigrant or not - to do farmer and dairy stuff. serve customers, wash dishes. Walker is perhaps the most toxic person possible to the average Badger. and he holds everyone hostage by not stating anything you can get ahold of. why does he not decide on the casino in Racine - which outsider will make the largest campaign contribution. there are few welders working at casinos.
  13. Nav
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    Nav - July 15, 2014 7:43 am
    Governor Walker has mixed messages on a LOT of things. He sim0ply does not want the vote5rs of WI to know what he REALLY stands for. Why? He is afraid they will march to the polls in November if they knew what he REALLY stands for.

    The people of WI have noticed that he really does not get much into the public except for the really friendly audiences. We have a Governor who is truly afraid of the people of the State.

  14. wigglwagon
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    wigglwagon - July 15, 2014 7:43 am
    Sending the kids back will not solve the problem. They are just a symptom of the problem. We also need interior enforcement. Send back the adults who are already working. When we start doing that we will be on the right track.

    Walker's problem is that the employers of those illegal adults are the ones making campaign donations.
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