Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee proposes to stop illegal immigration with a Mexico border fence, more border patrol agents and forcing illegal immigrants to go home before they can return.
Released Friday, Huckabee's plan takes a tough stance — similar to those of his GOP rivals — though he has been more forgiving of some here illegally: As Arkansas governor, Huckabee attempted to make children of illegal immigrants eligible for scholarships and in-state college tuition.
Huckabee defended that Arkansas effort at a debate last month: "In all due respect, we are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did. We're a better country than that."
His new immigration plan does not address education, health care or other services provided to illegal immigrants that strain communities in early-voting Iowa and other places where people are angry about the issue.
In addition to building the fence and installing surveillance cameras along the border, and adding law enforcement agents, the plan would, among other things:
- Punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, create a system to verify citizenship and stop the IRS and Social Security Administration from accepting fake Social Security numbers.
- Pass a tax plan, called the FAIR tax, which would eliminate the IRS as well as income, corporate, payroll and other taxes in favor of a 23 percent sales tax. Huckabee said this would credit an economic disincentive for illegal immigration.
- Eliminate the visa lottery system and admission preferences for brothers and sisters of citizens, increase visas for highly skilled and educated applicants and expedite processing for Armed Services members.
- Force illegal immigrants to return to their home countries before they are allowed to apply to return to the U.S.
His plan quickly drew criticism from a spokesman for rival Fred Thompson, Jeff Sadosky, who said the plan "contradicts everything he did as governor." He pointed out Huckabee denounced a 2005 raid on illegal immigrants at an Arkansas poultry plant and gave $1,000 in state funds to help children whose parents were arrested.
And he said that while Huckabee's plan would reject the Mexican consular ID card, he supported bringing a Mexican consulate, which issues the cards, to Arkansas. Critics also point out Huckabee has expressed support for a path to citizenship in the past.