After weeks of saying he opposed “amnesty,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker changed course and said he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday afternoon.
For most of Walker’s political career, he has publicly supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but, earlier this month, he began saying his “views had changed” and he no longer supported “amnesty” — adopting the buzzword conservatives use to condemn any policy that gives citizenship to those who entered the country illegally.
Walker’s shift back toward the center is a move that’s sure to enrage the far right — and be seized upon by the, as of now, only official presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, who is a strong opponent of most immigration reform measures. Walker’s latest position may help the likely GOP presidential candidate gain traction among mainstream Republicans, however, and compete against Jeb Bush, another top Republican contender expected to run in 2016.
At the March 13 dinner in question, Walker told New Hampshire Republicans that undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be deported and should be able to “eventually get their citizenship without being given preferential treatment” above those already in line for citizenship. He also mocked former Republican nominee Gov. Mitt Romney’s suggestion that illegal immigrants would “self deport.”
The very next day, Walker defended his shift against a path to citizenship.
“This is one where we listened to the people all across the country, particularly border governors who saw how this president messed that up, and that’s an issue where I think people want leaders who are willing to listen to the people on that,” he told reporters.
According to Walker spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski, the governor’s position has not changed. “Governor Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed,” Kukowski said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “His position has not changed, he does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants, and this story line is false,” Kukowski added.