On August 11th, 2010, NPR’s On Point published its interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, where he was questioned about a bill he endorsed in 2005 that would have supplied undocumented immigrants who fulfilled certain criteria with state-sponsored scholarships.
Huckabee maintained his opinion and seemed to suggest that Congress should support the DREAM Act, which aims to provide young, undocumented immigrants who moved to the U.S. with their parents and have lived in the U.S. for the most of their lives with a means of legalization. He reasoned that refusing intelligent, young undocumented immigrants access to higher education does more than misguidedly penalize children – it also negatively affects taxpayers and the entire nation:
HUCKABEE: When a kid comes to his country, and he’s four years old and he had no choice in it — his parents came illegally. He still, because he is in this state, it’s the state’s responsibility – in fact, it is the state’s legal mandate – to make sure that child is in school. So let’s say that kid goes to school. That kid is in our school from kindergarten through the 12th grade. He graduates as valedictorian because he’s a smart kid and he works his rear end off and he becomes the valedictorian of the school. The question is: Is he better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes? I think it’s better if he goes to college and becomes a citizen.
For these reasons, Huckabee also insisted that he does not support repeal of the 14th Amendment, which confers citizenship on all children born on U.S. soil, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. Furthermore, he affirmed that all children of “illegal immigrants” should have a path to citizenship.
Huckabee’s interview responses are noteworthy in their differences from many other Republicans’ views on immigration; Senator John McCain (R-AZ), for example, purports to oppose the DREAM Act for “humanitarian reasons.” That the ultra-conservative Huckabee breaks from traditional Republican ideology to support young, undocumented immigrants could indicate a way to find common ground with anti-immigrant legislators. Although he calls for strengthened border security and refers to the parents of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries as “illegal,” Huckabee recognizes that the Act could help those who aren’t at fault for their immigration status, links their success with the general wellbeing of the nation, and identifies the 14th Amendment debate as a ruse. Perhaps this overlap between pro- and anti-immigrant viewpoints represents an opportunity to communicate with conservative legislators and advocate for progressive laws that would benefit our communities and the U.S. as a whole.
By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern