Opinion: Bachmann and Paul on immigration

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Republicans reiterated their border-first, border-only approach to fixing the nation’s immigration system during Thursday’s debate. But at least two of the candidates offered up a couple of additional suggestions.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) repeated her pledge to build a wall along every inch of the border between the United States and Mexico, and also promised to end all taxpayer-funded support for illegal immigrants or their children.


It’s unclear what benefits Bachmann would eliminate because undocumented immigrants are already ineligible for federal assistance, including welfare. They are not denied access, however, to emergency room care. And undocumented immigrant children are allowed to attend public schools.

Bachmann may want to consider a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Plyler vs. Doe. The court rebuffed efforts to keep undocumented immigrant children out of the classroom, finding that schools could not deny them access to a public education.

Perhaps she is referring to a handful of states that have voted to grant undocumented immigrants in-state tuition. The U.S. Supreme Court in June refused to consider an appeal to overturn a California law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay reduced, in-state tuition.

It would be interesting to see if Bachmann mounts a legal challenge -– something she not need be president to do.

Similarly, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he opposes illegal immigration. However, he is also opposed to E-Verify, a controversial employment verification system that is the centerpiece of Republicans’ enforcement efforts in Congress, which would would require all employers to use E-verify to confirm that a worker is in the country legally and eligible to work. Paul has previously said E-Verify places too great a burden on business owners to act as ‘policemen.’

The problem is that employers are already required to verify an employee’s eligibility to legally work in the U.S.; they rely on passports or other information to confirm the person’s status. And those businesses that are most worried about it aren’t concerned about playing cop. Instead, growers say they worry E-Verify will wipe out their labor supply. American farmers admit that more than half of all farmworkers in the U.S. who harvest crops are here illegally. Growers say they can’t find enough legal workers willing to help with the harvests.

Like Paul, some ‘tea party’ groups have suggested that E-Verify is an intrusion by government because it is a de facto national identification system.

So far, the field of candidates has stuck to a border-only conversation. It will be interesting to see if the talking points give way to more specific plans or whether the debate stays light and fluffy.


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--Sandra Hernandez