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Republicans Tackle Immigration in New Hampshire Debate

Republican presidential hopefuls met in New Hampshire Tuesday to define their positions on issues including immigration, faith and the war on terror. A political reporter looks at how the candidates performed.

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    The 10 announced Republican presidential candidates stood together on the stage at St. Anselm's College last night. But on the contentious issue of immigration, John McCain stood alone.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: For us to do nothing is silent and de facto amnesty.


    McCain is cosponsor of the immigration bill now being debated in the Senate, but the other nine had little if anything positive to say about it. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

    FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), Massachusetts: This bill, unfortunately, has at least one provision that's a real problem. It's the Z visa. And what it allows is people who've come here illegally to stay here for the rest of their lives, not necessarily as citizens. They have to wait 13 years to become citizens.

    That's not the point. The point is, every illegal alien, almost every one, under this bill gets to stay here. That's not fair to the millions and millions of people around the world that would love to come here.


    California Congressman Duncan Hunter.

    REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), California: And let me tell you, this is a disastrous bill. And if John McCain is right in saying that this is a national security issue — and it is, border enforcement — then the Hunter bill, which was signed by the president on the 26th of October, mandating 854 miles of double fence — it's been six months, and they've done 11 miles.

    So this administration has a case of the slows. And I think they slowed the fence down so that they could come out with the amnesty at the same time, put the two together, and the Bush-McCain-Kennedy bill would then be accepted by conservatives and liberals alike.


    Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.

    FORMER GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R), Wisconsin: Unless you secure the border, it is not right to give 12 million individuals who have illegal rights into this country status before that border is protected. There should be no amnesty. And this bill, no matter how you cover it, is an amnesty bill. And the people in this country do not believe in that bill, and they believe very much that the best hope for us is to have a secure border.


    Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo.

    REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), Colorado: What we're doing here in this immigration battle is testing our willingness to actually hold together as a nation or split apart into a lot of Balkanized pieces. We are testing our willingness to actually hold onto something called the English language, something that is the glue that is supposed to hold us together as a nation. We are becoming a bilingual nation, and that is not good.


    Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

    RUDY GIULIANI (R), Former Mayor of New York: The problem with this immigration plan is it has no real unifying purpose. It's a typical Washington mess. Everybody compromises, four or five compromises, and the compromises leave you with the following conclusion. The litmus test you should have for legislation is, is it going to make things better? And when you look at these compromises, it is quite possible it will make things worse.

    The organizing purpose should be that our immigration laws should allow us to identify everyone who is in this country that comes here from a foreign country. They should have a tamper-proof I.D. card. It should be in a database that allows you to figure out who they are, why they're here, make sure they're not illegal immigrants coming here for a bad purpose, and then to be able to throw out the ones who are not in that database.


    Giuliani's answer prompted McCain to respond.


    Rudy, you just described our legislation, so I'd be glad to have further conversation with you, because it does account for people who are here illegally, it does have an employment verification system, and it weeds out those who shouldn't be here, and it gives others a chance to remain in this country.


    Debate moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN also asked the candidates about the war in Iraq. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore defended the U.S. military operation as a necessary step to secure both the Middle East and the U.S.

    FORMER GOV. JIM GILMORE (R), Virginia: The interest of the United States is in creating as much stability as possible in the Middle East. There is a very great danger to this country, our interests in Israel, our interests in energy, and in other ways.

    There's a giant danger of the Middle East becoming an unstable place. Saddam Hussein was unstable, and so taking him out was good there, but we certainly didn't anticipate the further instability that was to come out.


    Senator McCain used the opportunity to admonish Senator Hillary Clinton, who, two nights earlier at a Democratic debate, put the blame for the war on President Bush.


    And when Senator Clinton says this is Mr. Bush's war, that this is President Bush's war — when President Clinton was in power, I didn't say that Bosnia, our intervention there, was President Clinton's war. When we intervened in Kosovo, I didn't say it was President Clinton's war.


    But Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who voted against the original authorization of force in Iraq, was the only one of the 10 arguing U.S. troops should be withdrawn immediately.

    REP. RON PAUL (R), Texas: The sooner we come home, the better. If they declare there's no progress in September, we should come home. It was a mistake to go, so it's a mistake to stay. If we made the wrong diagnosis, we should change the treatment.

    So we're not making progress there, and we should come home. The weapons weren't there, and we went in under U.N. resolutions, and our national security was not threatened.


    The debate also touched on hot-button issues such as evolution, religion and abortion. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was asked about his rejection of the evolutionary theory of human life in an earlier debate.

    FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), Arkansas: Well, let me be very clear. I believe there is a God. I believe there's a God who was active in the creation process. Now, how did he do it, and when did he do it, and how long did he take? I don't honestly know, and I don't think knowing that would make me a better or a worse president.

    But I'll tell you what I can tell the country: If they want a president who doesn't believe in God, there's probably plenty of choices. But if I'm selected as president of this country, they'll have one who believes in those words, that God did create.


    Romney, meanwhile, was questioned about a recent poll showing some voters would not support him because he is a Mormon.


    I believe in God, believe in the Bible, believe Jesus Christ is my savior. I believe that God created man in his image. I believe that the freedoms of man derive from inalienable rights that were given to us by God.

    And I also believe that there are some pundits out there that are hoping that I'll distance myself from my church so that that'll help me politically, and that's not going to happen.


    On the question of the most significant moral issues facing the country, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback discussed the fight to outlaw abortion and its importance within the Republican Party.

    SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), Kansas: And I'm pro-life, and I'm whole life. And one of the things I'm the most — the proudest about our party about is that we've stood for life. We've been a party that has stood for a culture of life.

    And it was in our platform in 1980, and it continues today. And with that respect — and I have respect for my other colleagues — that's why I don't think we can nominate somebody that's not pro-life in this party, because it is at our core.


    And just as Rudy Giuliani, whose views are pro-choice on abortion, was asked to respond to a Catholic bishop's criticism, stormy weather in New Hampshire intervened.


    How does that make you feel when you hear words like that from a Catholic bishop?


    Well, a Catholic bishop, any religious — issues of moral…


    That's the lightning that's having an effect on our system.


    I know.



    You're going to leave me alone, John. Well, I guess I'm here by myself. Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that's happening right now.

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