Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fred rolls up his sleeves and gets to work

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) - Republican Fred Thompson said Tuesday the government should yank federal dollars from cities and states that don't report illegal immigrants.

In his first major policy proposal, Thompson challenged presidential rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney by criticizing "sanctuary cities" where city workers are barred from reporting suspected illegal immigrants who enroll their children in school or seek hospital treatment.

"Taxpayer money should not be provided to illegal immigrants," Thompson said at a round-table discussion that included Collier County, Fla., sheriff Don Hunter.

Thompson has argued his rivals are soft on illegal immigration because Giuliani, as New York mayor, sued the federal government to keep his city's sanctuary policy and because Romney tolerated sanctuary cities as Massachusetts' governor.

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"There's not a lot of new legislation that needs to be passed," the candidate said. "We need to enforce the laws that are on the books. There are laws against illegal immigration, there are laws to secure the border, there are laws against sanctuary cities, there are laws against publicly funding illegals, and that law is being disregarded."

Under Thompson's plan, sanctuary cities would lose discretionary federal grants, as would colleges and universities that allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

The former Tennessee senator also called for stronger laws forcing employers to verify that workers aren't illegal immigrants, for a more rigorous system to track who is coming in and out of the country and for increased prosecution of "coyotes," smugglers who bring illegal immigrants across the Mexican border.

Calling for stronger border security, he said: "A small amount of nuclear material could do a lot of damage in the wrong hands. It makes you wonder why a terrorist would bother going through an airport or a port ... when we have an open border."

"In 1996 we passed a bill, I was in the Senate, that outlawed sanctuary city cities. Mayor Giuliani went to court to defeat that law," Thompson said.

Fred clearly understands that illegal immigration will be one of the major issues in the general election. Jim Ogonowski's near defeat of Niki Tsongas in a special election in deep blue Massachusetts, race she should have won by 20 or more points but instead nearly lost, was based almost solely upon his emphasis on illegal immigration.

This issue cuts across party lines and can draw Democrats and independents who would not normally consider voting Republican. All it will take is for a candidate to stand up and take a tough no-nonsense, no-compromise position on the issue. This, BTY, is something that Giuliani will never do because he is, at heart, a liberal.

Fred has made a good start on staking out what is very likely to be THE winning issue in the election.