As the election approaches, immigrants have become convenient political targets for a whole host of politicians on the right. Fear-mongering about “anchor babies” has become a common tactic, with leading Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) even advocating for amending the Constitution to prevent children born in the U.S. from automatically receiving citizenship.
Yet in an interview with Human Events yesterday, one high-profile Republican broke with his party and condemned conservatives advocating for policies that take advantage of immigrant labor but fail to comprehensively reform our immigration system. Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), who comes from a state ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, explained that the state would be “way, way, way behind where we are now” if it wasn’t for immigrants — “some of there [who] were here illegally” — that helped to rebuild the state. He went on to say that people should search for “common sense” solutions for undocumented immigration, and that “we’re not going to take 10 or 12 or 14 million people and put them in jail or deport them.” He continued, “Some people need to quit acting like we are and let’s talk about real solutions“:
BARBOUR: I’ve had a different experience then perhaps some other governors. I don’t know where we would have been in Mississippi after Katrina if it hadn’t been with the Spanish speakers that came in to help rebuild. And there’s no doubt in my mind some of them were here illegally. Some of them were, some of them weren’t. But they came in, they looked for the work. If they hadn’t been there — if they hadn’t come and stayed for a few months or a couple years — we would be way, way, way behind where we are now. [...]
My idea is everybody from Stanford who’s from India that gets a PhD, we ought to stamp citizenship on his diploma. So instead of him going back to India and starting a business that employs 1,800 people, then he’ll start a business that employs 1,800 people in Des Moines, Iowa, instead of India. A lot of it is just common sense. And common sense tell us we’re not going to take 10 or 12 or 14 million people and put them in jail and deport them. We’re not gonna do it, and we need to quit — some people need to quit acting like we are and let’s talk about real solutions.
As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Barbour is widely considered to be “one of the most powerful Republicans.” It remains to be seen whether his advocacy for “common sense” solutions for immigration reform will catch on among many other members of his political party, who have become increasingly anti-immigrant.
(HT: Political Correction)
Reflecting on his credentials for a possible 2012 run for president, Barbour said, “I was a lobbyist and a pretty damned good one.”