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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker again declined to clarify his position on birthright citizenship, arguing that it’s necessary to secure the border and enforce immigration laws before addressing the issue.
“Whether it's talking about the 14th Amendment or anything else, until we secure the border and enforce the laws, we shouldn't be talking about any other issue out there,” he said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Walker said that talking about any other issues on immigration was intended to “distract” from the fact that "politicians have made promises […] they haven’t been able to fulfill.”
And he argued that achieving those two things — securing the border, and enforcing laws already on the books — would take “care of almost every one of the other issues [with immigration] out there,” including the question of birthright citizenship.
But it’s a question that’s dogged him over the past few weeks, as he’s offered multiple conflicting answers on whether he supports it. At the Iowa State Fair earlier this month, he indicated to NBC’s Kasie Hunt he would want to eliminate birthright citizenship, but later said on ABC that he wouldn’t try to repeal the 14th Amendment, which affords citizenship to anyone born in the U.S.
On Sunday, Walker again suggested that he’d let the 14th Amendment stand, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that he's “not talking about changing the Constitution."
The controversy surrounding the birthright citizenship issue was the latest fumble from Walker that reinforced what some critics have said is a tendency to shift with the political winds on a number of hot-button issues, ranging from a pathway to citizenship — which he once supported, but now publicly opposes — to ethanol subsidies, which he’s expressed support for in Iowa but not in Wisconsin.
On a pathway to citizenship, Walker dismissed the criticism, saying “I was a governor who had next to no involvement in it, and made some statements on it.”
But Walker pushed back more broadly against the perception that he’s been a flip-flopper, arguing that his evolution on those issues came from better “understanding” Americans.“What that comes across as is a governor who actually understands how things work,” he said.
“This isn't just about a litmus test of issues. This is about understanding how people really live in their lives.”
Walker also answered criticism from his hometown newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that he’s one of the most divisive politicians in recent memory, embracing the label with pride. He argued that “just working across party lines, if it doesn't mean get things done, is not what Americans are looking for” — rather, they want “leaders that actually get things done.”
“Most politicians talk about things, but they don't fix them. I fixed things and didn't talk about them,” he added.
One issue he plans to fix if elected is the terrorist threat posed by the nation’s porous borders, and he said while he’s most concerned about the southern U.S. border, he’d be open to building a wall to secure the northern border as well.
“Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire. They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at,” he said.
In elaborating on his foreign policy positions, he was reluctant to endorse sending in U.S. ground troops to combat ISIS, arguing that the U.S. should first “lift the restrictions” on arming Sunni and Kurdish fighters and training troops already deployed in Iraq.
“It's not a question of sending more in. It's about empowering them to unleash the power of the United States military,” he said.
Walker also argued that withdrawing from Iraq too early — a decision he attributed to President Obama and former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but one that was made by then-President George W. Bush — was a bad move, one that “opened the door, and the vacuum has been filled by ISIS.”