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Rick Santorum Wants Credit for GOP Immigration Ideas

Rick Santorum has a simple message for his GOP rivals when it comes to immigration reform: I thought of it first.

“Up until a few days ago, I was the only candidate in this race to put forth a legal and illegal immigration program that puts American workers first,” Santorum said during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Santorum has said all immigrants, legal and illegal, are hurting wages for American workers and has proposed curbing even legal immigration.

“This summer, I was joined by Gov. Walker, who was first to change his position, and with a few specifics, called for limiting legal immigration. Now, Donald Trump has joined a majority of Americans and me with some ideas of how to put American workers first,” Santorum said. “I welcome them both.”

Throughout his speech, the 2012 runner-up in the GOP presidential primary targeted the Republican candidates currently in the Senate, saying they have a record of “abject failure.”

“Unlike some who are running for president today, I was never a member of a Senate gang. I understood amnesty was not a solution,” Santorum said.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, who are both waging White House bids, were part of the so-called “Gang of Eight” who unsuccessfully pushed for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. The bipartisan proposal included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which conservative opponents dubbed amnesty.

On the issue of ending birthright citizenship, which has dominated the campaign this week after the idea was included in Trump’s immigration plan, Santorum said litigating the 14th Amendment “ is certainly not my highest priority.”

The 2012 Iowa caucus winner has struggled in his second White House run. Santorum was relegated to the earlier “Happy Hour Debate” for lower polling candidates this month, and a CNN/ORC poll released this week showed him garnering just one percent support nationally.

The Santorum campaign has brushed off his faltering start, saying it’s the same way he started four years ago when he went on to win 11 states. At the Press Club, Santorum was asked if he had any benchmarks he needed to hit in order to help him decide if he should continue his campaign.

“It’s sort of like the Supreme Court when it comes to pornography: You’ll know it when you see it...I’ll certainly know if that eventuality ever comes,” Santorum responded. “Of course, I don’t anticipate dealing with that problem.”