State Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, addressed a potential weakness in his campaign at the Capitol in Boise Tuesday. Labrador, who is battling Vaughn Ward for the GOP nomination to face Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick in Idaho's 1st Congressional District, offered his own solutions to illegal immigration and called on President Barack Obama to send armed soldiers to the border of the United States and Mexico.
Labrador has come under some fire for his position on amnesty for illegal immigrants. He said that while he is opposed to granting amnesty for those in the country illegally, he is also against large-scale deportation efforts that would give the image of a police state in the country. "I believe that massive police round-ups are both frightening and expensive. They will deplete our resources and I fear would take too long," he said. Labrador said he is open to a plan that would encourage illegal immigrants to come forward by promising them special consideration by the U.S. State Department for legal re-entry to the country. Those who are illegal who would not come forward would be punished accordingly, he said.
Labrador also had some sharp words for his opponent. "Mr. Ward's campaign is using innuendo to suggest that I can't be trusted to properly address the issue of illegal immigration. He is hoping, it seems, to appeal to the darkest recesses of the human soul by taking cheap advantage of my work in immigration law and maybe even my ethnic heritage," said Labrador, who was born in Puerto Rico. As he has in debates during the past week, Labrador said that because he has experience in immigration law, he is uniquely qualified to address the problem and find a solution.
Labrador said for meaningful immigration reform, the federal government must take three steps to ensure national security. First federal officials must enforce immigration law that is already on the books. "It is already unlawful for any foreigner to be in the United States without proper documentation," said Labrador. Second, in order to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the states, Labrador advocated for doing all within the power of government to secure the border and called on Obama to send soldiers there to aid the process. "I advocate sending the military to the border to battle the criminals terrorizing our border towns just like they are battling Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. The military should provide serious firepower and backup to our border patrol agents." Finally, he called for reform of guest worker programs to expedite entry for those who wish to come to America to work. "We need to greatly streamline our guest worker program while making sure American workers are protected against the in-flow of cheap labor," said Labrador.
Labrador addressed the situation in Arizona, where the state Legislature recently passed some of the strictest anti-illegal immigration measures in the nation. The law, which has been the subject of pro-immigration rallies and an effort to boycott goods and services from the state, allows police officers to try to determine the citizenship status of those they stop through lawful contact, meaning a traffic stop or domestic disturbance call to a home or something of the like. Before trying to determine immigration status, officers must also have a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the country illegally. Labrador said that Arizona was forced to act based on high rates of violence and kidnappings in their cities due to illegal immigrants. When asked by reporters, he would neither fully support the legislation nor slam the law, which takes effect at the end of July. He said that the state enacted measures it felt appropriate to deal with immigration and that it is not his place to tell them how to deal with immigration.
Ultimately he believes the solution to immigration woes will come on a federal level. He said instead of boycotting Arizona, citizens should lay blame upon the federal government for not addressing immigration. "The anger and criticism against the state is misplaced. It should be directed at the federal government, which has failed to act decisively on this issue and has played games with this problem for over 20 years."