It looks like some Republican presidential candidates are trying to out trump Donald Trump on immigration, putting forth their own out-there ideas to secure the nation’s borders.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday proposed tracking immigrants similar to the way FedEx keeps tabs of its packages. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has not ruled out building a wall along the far less controversial border between the U.S. and Canada.
Among the many GOP 2016 campaigns, Trump, the Republican front-runner, has managed to steal the spotlight on immigration. The billionaire real estate mogul wants to build a 2,000-mile, permanent border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants, put an end to the policy known as birthright citizenship and methodically arrest and deport more than 11 million illegal immigrants with the hope that the “good ones” will eventually be let back into the country.
Walker and Christie’s latest immigration rhetoric seems aimed at differentiating themselves from the crowded Republican field and gaining traction on an issue that Trump is clearly dominating.
“They can’t figure out how to get their message across given that Trump’s eating up all of the oxygen ... It is attention seeking because they can’t get attention any other way,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former John McCain campaign adviser. “They risk being portrayed as cartoon characters of themselves.”
According to an NBC News survey after the first GOP debate earlier this month, Trump topped the poll with 23% support among Republican primary voters with Sen. Ted Cruz in a distant second at 13%. Walker was in the middle of the pack with 7% while Christie pulled just 1% support.
Christie made his initial remarks about using FedEx technology to track immigrants during a stop in the early voting state of New Hampshire over the weekend. “We let people come to this country with visas and the minute they come in, we lose track of them,” said the Garden State governor. “So here’s what I’m going to do as president. I’m going to ask Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express to come work for the government for three months at Immigration and Custom Enforcement and show these people, because guess what of the 40 million people who are here illegally, 40% of them didn’t come in over the southern border—40% of them came here in legally with a visa and overstayed their visa.”
The governor, who took some heat over his proposal, said on "Fox News Sunday," “I don’t mean people are packages, so let’s not be ridiculous.” Still, Christie double-downed on his idea, arguing “This is once again a situation where the private sector laps us in the government with the use of technology. We should bring in the folks from FedEx to use the technology to be able to do it.”
Christie isn’t the first Republican politician to pitch using the global delivery service to address border security issues. Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock suggested it last year when she was running for office and former House Speaker and failed presidential candidate Newt Gingrich floated the idea of delivery companies tracking undocumented immigrants in 2011.
Meanwhile, Walker is setting his sights further north, arguing that building a wall between the U.S. and Canada is a “legitimate issue.” On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Walker said that he’s heard concern from people in New Hampshire about the 5,525 mile long border – the longest in the world.
“They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago,” the Wisconsin governor said. “So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at.” Notably, Walker-- like Trump -- has said he's in favor of ending birthright citizenship but has since been murkier on the issue.
While some GOP lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona have expressed concern that terrorists could cross the Canadian border and into the U.S., they have not gone as far as Walker to suggest the possibility of erecting a wall between the two countries.