While Democratic potential candidates decided not to participate in the first-ever Iowa Ag Summit, the Republican representatives expressed their viewpoints freely. Part 1 covered the participants’ positions on the Renewable Fuel Standard, while part 2 reviewed their comments on EPA’s recent decisions on Waters of the U.S.
The nine potential presidential candidates who came to Des Moines earlier this month for the Iowa Ag Summit were: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, former New York Governor George Pataki, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (listed in the order they appeared). Each of the candidates had one-on-one interviews with Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter.
Chris Christie says government needs to be more collaborative and state governments should be empowered, whether referring to Waters of the U.S., energy or health care.
Regarding immigration, he says, “We need a clear, reliable guest worker program to fix the immigration system.” He says some workers are seasonal, but some are permanent (for example, those who work in pork production).
“How do you deal with government bureaucracy?” he asks, and then says we do that by “having somebody in charge of the government who has actually run something before. Let’s clean it up and make it work effectively, and get input from employers who are using it effectively.”
Mike Huckabee prefaced his comments with a statement about the urban-rural “divide.” He feels there is as much polarization between urban and rural as there is between left and right. He has worked to bring equal services, including health care, education and communication to rural communities in Arkansas and would like to see this same emphasis take place on a state-by-state level, saying, “Obamacare is a 50-state mistake.”
Regarding immigration, he says, “The first thing we ought to do when they get here is ask why they want to come here.” In other words, did they come here to work, or because they were a criminal in their own country, or because they are doing something illegal in the United States?
“We need to elect people with some common sense so we make sure the labor force is made up of the people who are here because they want to work,” he says, adding, “We need a secure border and a reasonable process of immigration.”
Jeb Bush says, “The rule of law is a sacred value in our country and we need to protect our borders. We need confidence moving forward that legal immigration will be an easier path than illegal immigration.”
He feels the United States presently has “chain migration” through an expanded definition of family, and believes this country should “model our immigration on the Canadian model.”
The immigration program is broken and must be fixed, asserts Bush. He believes a path for legal immigrants should require that they learn English, they have a job, and they pay fines, “and we’d better start doing it. To be successful as a nation we need to deal with our problems.”
Bush mentions an urban-rural divide, but he also feels there is a definite income divide within urban areas. He says, in Florida, “We tried to focus on the fundamentals. If you’re going to create jobs, you have to have an educated workforce. This isn’t a Washington solution: Washington can be a partner, but to be successful, strategies should be developed at the local and state level.”
Rick Perry has had first-hand experience with immigration issues. He says when the federal government helps with immigration, the agents are 50 miles into the United States. He had Texas Rangers literally in the middle of the Rio Grande River.
“I don’t think U.S. citizens are ever going to be comfortable with immigration control until we secure the border,” he says. “We had 10,000-plus apprehensions a week along a100-plus mile stretch of the border. You secure the border with personnel, with strategic fencing and with aerial support.”
Perry says the first thing that needs to be done is to overhaul the agency that oversees immigration because it’s broken. He feels that unless we have a secure border, any other changes to immigration will basically be meaningless.
Ted Cruz says the way Washington is dealing with immigrants presently isn’t complicated, it’s just simply a mess. He is optimistic in the long term, however, believing there is a lot of bi-partisan agreement about getting serious on stopping the problem of illegal immigration.
“And there is substantial bi-partisan agreement that we have to improve and streamline legal immigration,” he says. “My dad emmigrated from Cuba (legally) 50 years ago with $100 sown into his underwear. We need to have a legal process where workers can come and work on farms.”
Lindsay Graham points out that all the terrorists involved in the 9-11 tragedy were “visa overstays. “As to the 11 million illegal immigrants that in the country, crooks are not welcome and gang members are not welcome. On the other hand, there are people who have been here for generations and I have one solution to this problem – be practical. As to the 11 million – some have to leave and some can stay. The conditions to staying are learn English, have a job and pay taxes,” he says.
George Pataki says the country has two broad issues in dealing with immigration. The first is what we should do about the H2A workers and the second is what we should do about the 11 million illegal immigrants who are here?
“We have to streamline the H2A process and we need a longer program for contract workers who can stay here for a longer period of time. We have to find a way to legalize the status for many of the illegal immigrants who are here. When we allow people to stay and grant them legalization of their status, we’re telling other illegal immigrants to come on in.”
Pataki says, “It depends on our controlling the borders so we can ensure that fewer than 100 immigrants have entered the country illegally.
“We are a nation of the rule of law and the rule of law is critical to our success,” he continues. “When their first act is to break the law, there has to be a consequence. They should admit they’ve broken the law, pay a sanction, and have mandatory community service to uphold the rule of law,” he adds.
Rick Santorum, like Cruz, is the son of an immigrant. He says immigration used to be non-partisan issue but he doesn’t see it that way anymore. He says the country must better secure the border and create legal programs for workers with different skills.
Scott Walker says that as a country, when we talk about immigrant labor, we need to talk first about securing the border.
“It’s a national security issue. I’m not a supporter of amnesty but we need a legal method of immigration that works.”
Walker’s most popular statements with the audience were regarding welfare and food stamps: “We’re one of the few states in the country that don’t give food stamps unless they’re signed up for job training programs. We know we can plug people into work because we have the jobs out there.
“Plus, they have to pass a drug test,” adds Walker. “We know there are jobs out there. When I proposed work requirements, drug testing, etc. [opponents] say we’re making it harder for them to get assistance, but in reality, we’re making it easier for them to get jobs. If you’re able, and there are jobs out there, we’re going to help you get a job.”
As with the participants stand on other issues, there are clear differences but also many similarities. They were, after all, in Iowa, speaking to a relatively conservative audience in a state where they know they need to be recognized and, hopefully, remembered.