Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he would welcome any and all immigrants into the United States if they want to work.
“For me, I’d open the door to making sure that people can legally come into the country,” said Walker, is is preparing a 2016 run for the Republican presidential nomination.
“I don’t care whether it is from Mexico, or India or Germany or Ireland or anywhere else around the world, if we have people who want to come here and work hard and live the American dream, we should embrace those people,” Walker told reporters at a Friday breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
Walker downplayed the contentious issue of an amnesty for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.
“The larger problem is that there’s not an effective way at the front end, at the front door, to make it possible for people who legitimately, legally, appropriately come into the country live the American Dream and to me, it just makes sense to make that an easier process,” he said.
In March, Gallup reported that 138 million low-skilled or high-skilled people in China, Latin America, India and Africa want to immigrate to the United States, whose population of 300 million includes roughly 30 million legal immigrants.
“About 13% of the world’s adults — or about 630 million people — say they would like to leave their country and move somewhere else permanently… [and] 138 million people, that somewhere else would be the U.S.,” said the report, which estimate the group would include 19 million Chinese, 13 million Nigerians, 10 million Indians and 6 million Bangladeshis and 5 million Mexicans.
“The people who want to live the American Dream are exactly the kind of people this country is based on,” Walker insisted.
At least 20 million Americans are now unemployed, amid an economy that pays lower wages for middle-class jobs and increasingly rewards high-skill workers and investors.
In 2012 the Center for Immigration Studies reported that 1 million fewer native-born Americans were working in 2012 than were working 2000, despite a population growth of 16 million.
Proposals to bring in additional workers are unpopular among GOP-leaning voters and independent voters. One poll by an advocate group pushing for lower immigration showed that only two percent of Americans strongly support the right of companies to hire foreign workers before they hire unemployed American workers.
Walker declined to comment on the Senate’s immigration plan, which would provide green cards to 30 million immigrants and work-permits to millions of guest workers during the next 10 years.
The bill is strongly backed by progressives, including President Barack Obama, and by business groups, as well as by the wealthy GOP donors needed by GOP presidential candidates.
Amid public protest, House Republicans have stalled the Senate bill.
House legislators are split over business efforts to increase the inflow of low-wage guest workers and immigrants. For example, Walker’s fellow Wisconsinite, Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s budget chairman, is playing a leading role behind closed doors to push for increased immigration.
On Friday, Walker backed business’ demands for easy access to immigrant workers. “From an immigration standpoint, it is simple, if you want to come into America today legally, it is very, very difficult from my point of view and the people I talk to — very difficult to do so on a timely basis,” Walker said.
But Walker declined to comment on the Senate bill.
“I don’t get caught up in the bills or legislation… it is not what what I was elected to do. I was elected to govern my state,” he said.
A June report by the Congressional Budget Office says the Senate bill would flatline wages for more than a decade, and shift more of the nation’s annual income from wage-earners to investors.
The immigration-boosting bill has proved poisonous to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was once touted as a 2016 favorite.
After he championed the bill, his rating lurched downwards.
A Nov. 22 Quinnipiac poll showed Marco losing a home-state race to former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, 50 percent to 43 percent. Only 39 percent of the state’s voters think Rubio would make a good president, said the survey.