Potential 2016 candidate Scott Walker’s staff is denying that he endorsed amnesty for illegal immigrants during a closed-door dinner with Republican donors in New Hampshire.
“Governor Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed,” said Kirsten Kukowski, the spokesman that he recently hired from the Republican National Committee.
“He does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants, and this story line is false,” she said. The denials follow a Thursday report in The Wall Street Journal, which said that Walker told New Hampshire Republicans donors that illegals would “eventually get their citizenship without being given preferential treatment.”
Walker reportedly declared his support for full amnesty at a March 13 dinner at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford, N.H. That declaration violated Walker’s generally successful efforts to equivocate on the issue by zig-zagging between vague pro-amnesty statements and vague anti-amnesty statements.
The issue deeply divides the Republican base from GOP donors.
Some polls show that very few Americans support an immigration policy that allows companies to hire migrants or guest workers in place of Americans.
In contrast, business interests strongly support greater illegal and legal immigration, partly because it provides more workers and more customers.
Like the other candidates, Walker has tried to zig-zag between the donors and voters.
“Well, I don’t believe in amnesty,” he told the host of “Fox News Sunday” Chris Wallace on March 1.
“I think the better approach is to enforce the laws and to give employers, job creators the tools like E-Verify and other things to make sure the law is being upheld going forward,” he said.
Walker’s phrase “other things” is a giant loophole that could include the change most sought by business interests — a greater legal inflow of immigrant workers and customers. But the phrase is so vague that — if elected and inaugurated — he can also deny to business lobbyists that he ever promised to increase legal immigration.
In November 2013, he told The Daily Caller that “I’d open the door to making sure that people can legally come into the country.”
“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 said at breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
The other GOP candidates have also tried to zig-zag their way through the competing interests, because they need business donations and voters’ votes to win 2016 campaigns.
For example, all GOP candidates say they support stronger border enforcement, but most also say they support greater legal immigration of blue-collar and white-collar workers.
Sen. Ted Cruz exemplified the zig-zag strategy in his Monday speech at Liberty University. “Instead of the lawlessness and the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty, imagine a president that finally, finally, finally secures the borders. And imagine a legal immigration system that welcomes and celebrates those who come to achieve the American dream,” he said.
Former Florida Jeb Bush is the strongest supporter of more immigration. He argues that an infusion of migrants can serve as a stimulus to double economic growth from 2 percent to 4 percent.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has tried to stake out a low-immigration pitch, but he also needs to raise donations. In a speech to conservative activists in February, for example, he largely avoided the issue and instead talked about other issues, such as foreign policy, that don’t alienate donors.