Republican Senate Candidate Breaks Ranks With Party: Let’s Stop Focusing On Border Security

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"Republican Senate Candidate Breaks Ranks With Party: Let’s Stop Focusing On Border Security"

Karen Handel

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Bazemore

A GOP candidate for the Senate in Georgia is breaking ranks with fellow Republicans on immigration reform by criticizing the border security-first mentality, saying that it’s necessary to focus on undocumented immigrants who overstay their visas.

During a monthly meeting hosted by Georgia’s Houston County GOP in November 2013, Republican candidate Karen Handel said in a video obtained by ThinkProgress that the laser focus on border enforcement would distract from fixing the current immigration system:

First things first, we enforce the existing laws and let our border patrol agencies really let them do their jobs … and let’s stop being so focused on the US-Mexican border because, the truth is that about half of the individuals who are illegal in our country, they came here legally in the first placed and jumped their visa. So we have a problem with that process that is a systemic issue with the procedures around that that we ought to be dealing with that.

Watch it.

Meanwhile, the other three major Republican Senate candidates have mainly focused on border-first enforcement. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) said, “until I am sure the borders are secure, nothing else matters,” while Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said that the Senate bill “fails to secure the border, the single most important element of addressing our illegal immigration problem.” Republican Senate candidate David Perdue agreed with the sentiment.

The border is in fact more secure than it’s ever been because there are “more ‘boots on the ground‘ at the border than there have ever been in history.” Approximately 40 percent of all undocumented immigrants in the country came in legally and overstayed their visas.

The Senate immigration bill, which all four candidates objected to because it provides so-called “amnesty,” would simultaneously secure the border and implement a biometric exit system that would track visa overstayers.

Handel’s position in November may very well be the first time that she’s softened her position since running for the Republican nomination for the Senate race. As Georgia Secretary of State, Handel enacted regressive voter ID laws that used database matching verification procedures, which “inaccurately flagged U.S. citizens as non-citizens.” And in 2010, she praised Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) for enforcing Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration policies, saying, “did you know that every single week, or maybe month, Mayor Wood, he sends a list of the illegals that are in the city of Roswell. Nothing happens. We need to work together to make sure that we can give our local government and we as a state can move forward on enforcement on these issues.”

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