The Republican nominee for Congress, Raul Labrador, has had to answer questions about his stance on immigration since the day he declared his intention to run for Congress in early December of 2010. The same day Labrador jumped in the race, state Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, called on Labrador to immediately withdraw from the race due to his positions on immigration and border security. The coming general election has not reduced questions on where Labrador stands on immigration issues. IdahoReporter.com has obtained an audio clip from 2007 in which Labrador proclaims his support for portions of the controversial DREAM Act.
The audio features Labrador explaining his views on illegal immigration to those gathered at a meeting for the City Club of Boise almost exactly three years ago. The forum at which Labrador spoke was concerning federal immigration legislation and the event boasted addresses from a Homeland Security official, Labrador, and a resident of Boise familiar with issues concerning legal and illegal immigrants. In the clip, Labrador, an immigration attorney, told the story of a female who was smuggled into the country by her parents at the age of 2 and grew up in the United States and was married to a U.S. Marine when she came to him for help with immigration. Labrador said that because of an immigration system that "doesn't make any sense," the lady traveled to Mexico to visit family and then returned illegally to the U.S.
The federal government wanted her to return to Mexico for 10 years before applying for citizenship, a sacrifice she was unwilling to make, Labrador said. "That is ridiculous," he said. "I could not believe there was nothing we could do to help her." He advocated for two changes to immigration code that would make it much easier for children brought to the country by their parents illegally to have pathway to citizenship. He said that he would remove the 10-year home country requirement and reduce it down drastically, and would support the DREAM Act of 2007. "That would give the opportunity to a child who came to the United States as no fault of her own, graduated high school, and is in a post-secondary type of setting ... would give them the opportunity to become legal," Labrador explained.
Here is the audio of Labrador's stance on the DREAM Act:
Labrador, who describes himself as "more of a moderate" on immigration in the audio clip, isn't the only Idaho politician to throw his support behind the DREAM Act. Though the majority of co-sponsors on the bills were Democrats, Idaho's two senators at the time, Republicans Larry Craig and Mike Crapo, both helped push for passage of the legislation. The bill, which never received much traction in Congress, would have allowed for children of illegal immigrants brought to this country early in life to obtain citizenship by jumping through some federal hoops. If the legislation passed, illegal youngsters would have had to graduate high school, be of good moral character, and complete a bachelor’s degree within a certain amount of time to qualify to become a legal citizen.
Labrador's comments in 2007 may come in direct conflict with what he said during a press conference earlier this year during his primary election battle with Vaughn Ward. Labrador offered a three-pronged approach to solve immigration woes. First, he said, the federal government should enforce laws already on the books concerning immigration. Next, he called on President Barack Obama to send thousands of troops to the border to quell violence in the region. Finally, he said that authorities should work to remove illegal immigrants from the country, but should give special consideration for future return to the U.S. to those illegal immigrants who come forward willingly. The line that conflicts with his address in 2007. "I have always advocated that those here illegally must return to their home countries and apply to reenter per the laws of the United States," explained Labrador. (See the video clip of Labrador's press conference here)
The two statements, Labrador told IdahoReporter.com Wednesday, do not conflict with one another. "The DREAM Act should require people to go back to their home countries for some period of time before applying to become legal. I have always advocated for that," Labrador said. "I was talking about the concept of the DREAM Act and not the actual bill. The concept of what we do with those kids who have been here most of their lives, but were brought here illegally by their parents. Should we give them the opportunity to come back and get legal?" He said that the act contains certain provisions with which he has never agreed, like giving in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants. "I have never been in favor of that," Labrador said.
Labrador also used the interview and the immigration question to take a swipe at his opponent, Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick. "If he wants to debate me on immigration, I'll do it anywhere and anytime," Labrador said. "The real question is where Minnick stands on immigration. His own party is suing the state of Arizona over its immigration law. He is in favor of amnesty and has said that illegal immigration is no worse legally than a speeding ticket." In a recent story about the immigration law, Minnick said the administration of President Barack Obama should focus on finding comprehensive immigration solutions, rather than picking on Arizona.
Labrador and Minnick face off in November's general election and are expected to debate several times in coming months. John Foster, spokesman for the Minnick campaign, has not commented on Labrador’s immigration positions.