Last night, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter pressed ex-presidential candidate and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK) on his belief that undocumented children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents should not be punished for the illegal act committed by their parents. In response, Coulter called Huckabee a “liberal Christian” — an apparently offensive accusation that he vehemently denied. However, Huckabee did firmly stand by his immigration stance:
HUCKABEE: My primary thing with illegals is you don’t punish the children of an illegal because the parents did something when the kid was three or four years-old.
COULTER: This exactly what I mean — this is a liberal Christian. I’m sure that is what liberals said to us 30 years ago in saying that we have to start subsidizing illegitimacy. ‘Oh this poor woman, she had a child out of wedlock, why would we want to punish the child?’ And then what happens? We’re subsidizing illegitimacy. [...] If you subsidize illegal immigration it’ll go through the roof. So your Christian heart says don’t punish the child, but economically that means we’re going to get a lot more of them.
HUCKABEE: Economically, you’re wrong. My economic heart tells me that if you have a kid who is a valedictorian — like a kid in my state was — and his parents are illegal, and he’s the valedictorian — wouldn’t it be better for him to go to college, become a medical doctor, and pay taxes and become a citizen as part of that? Or would it be better to have him pick tomatoes and never really be a productive citizen? The economy will be better when that kid is able to fully realize his potential and break the pattern of his parent’s illegal activity.
Coulter argued that Huckabee was just coming up with one anecdote to support his position, while she can think of “one million Mexicans living in Mexico thinking ‘if we can just run across the border and get our kids to do well in school, we’ll get citizenship.’”
In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of “anecdotes” just like the undocumented valedictorian from Arkansas who Huckabee mentioned. And though he didn’t cite it specifically, it sounds like Huckabee is in favor of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which would grant young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents and attend a university or enlist in the military with a path to legalization. Republicans in the Senate blocked the measure last month when it was attached to the defense reauthorization bill.
As Huckabee vaguely referenced, studies have found that the DREAM Act would reduce the dropout rate of immigrant students and increase tax revenues and reduce government expenses due to access to better educational opportunities which lead to better jobs. In the absence of immigration reform, the DREAM Act does nothing to help the parents of undocumented immigrants obtain legal residency — let alone citizenship as Coulter suggests.
In the end, both Huckabee and Coulter agreed that, first and foremost, the border must be “sealed.” Coulter even established her own set of border security benchmarks: “Until the border is sealed with a 200 foot wall surrounded by a moat full of crocodiles, then I will talk about giving citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.” Huckabee also tried to defend his right-wing credibility by pointing out that he was endorsed by the head of the Minutemen.