Walker’s Incomplete Immigration Reversal

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Over the last month, Scott Walker’s shift on immigration reform has seemingly gone from more rhetorical to substantive, but there’s still one significant area where the Wisconsin governor remains vague: Can he envision any pathway to legalization for America’s illegal immigrant population, even if not accompanied by a pathway to citizenship?

In early March, Walker went on “Fox News Sunday” to declare that he had changed his mind on immigration reform and he was no longer for “amnesty.” But when asked by host Chris Wallace if he could imagine ultimately supporting a policy where illegal immigrants in the U.S. pay a penalty in order to get put on a path to citizenship, the potential 2016 presidential contender replied: “I believe there’s a way you can do that. First and foremost, you have to secure that border, or none of these plans make any sense.”

That seemed to suggest that Walker was defining “amnesty” differently than the immigration hawks he was trying to win over with his new position. But over the last several weeks, Walker has made it clear that he would not support any pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants under any circumstance.

“I do not believe in amnesty for citizenship,” Walker said late last month while in Texas. “I believe that if someone wants to become a citizen they need to go to their country of origin and come in the system just like anyone else, and then beyond that, I think that’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort.”

While Walker’s statement forecloses an earned pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, it doesn’t necessarily foreclose the possibility of an earned pathway to legalization without the prospect of citizenship, similar to what Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has supported in the past. When The Daily Caller reached out to Walker’s PAC, Our American Revival, for clarification, spokeswoman AshLee Strong directed TheDC to comments Walker made on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show earlier this month.

The problem is Walker’s comments on “Hannity” did not address the possibility of an earned pathway to some type of legalization without the possibility of citizenship. When TheDC pressed again, another spokeswoman for the PAC, Kirsten Kukowski, replied, “The governor has been clear that the order of this process is important, that it must be border security first before we talk about anything else.”

Except the governor has already said he opposes a pathway to citizenship, which goes beyond waiting for the border to be secured before discussing “anything else.” So is Walker now backtracking on his “no pathway to citizenship” stance? If not, why is he refusing to take a stand on whether he supports a pathway to some type of legalization without citizenship?

Walker has recently earned plaudits from immigration hawks for not only stating that he now opposes a pathway to citizenship, but for demanding that “any legal immigration system … ultimately protects American workers and makes sure that American wages are going up.” But as of now, he has not yet foreclosed the possibility of supporting a pathway to some type of legalization for America’s illegal immigration population once the border is secure, which the immigration hawks who are now praising him would view as an “amnesty.” TheDC gave the governor and his PAC the opportunity to clarify his position on the issue, but for some reason Team Walker chose not to take it — in fact, under one reading of TheDC’s exchange, his spokespeople seemed to backtrack on his new position on a pathway to citizenship by emphasizing there needed to be border security first before discussing anything else.

After all these months of back and forth with the press on the issue of immigration, why is Walker still unable to take a clear stand?

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