Two Republican candidates to succeed U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann are staking out spots on the party’s right flank on the highly charged issue of immigration.
Former state Rep. Phil Krinkie and Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah spoke about the issue last week at a forum with the Central MN TEA Party in St. Cloud.
Krinkie said he doesn’t support a path to citizenship for those living in the U.S. without documentation and opposes a comprehensive attempt to overhaul immigration laws.
Sivarajah wouldn’t rule out supporting a citizenship path. But she stressed the need to seal the U.S.-Mexico border and said past attempts at granting what she called “amnesty” haven’t worked.
“I don’t think we should be rewarding people who came here and the very first thing they did was choose to break our law,” Sivarajah said.
Sivarajah also said the presence of foreign drug cartels in places such as Texas raises the question of who else is in the U.S. illegally.
Krinkie suggested federal agencies such as the National Security Agency could devise a way to track those in the U.S. who have overstayed their visas.
“NSA is tracking everybody anyway. Why can’t they set up a system to track people whose visas have expired?” Krinkie said.
Krinkie and Sivarajah are two of the four Republicans who’ve announced runs to succeed Bachmann, R-Stillwater, who isn’t seeking a fifth term. The others are 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer and St. Cloud state Sen. John Pederson.
Pederson is the lone candidate among the four who has said he supports a path to citizenship. Pederson says it’s simply not feasible to deport the more than 11 million people living in the U.S. without authorization.
“I do think there has to be a path for citizenship for the folks that are here. It has to be something that’s difficult and has some sacrifice tied to it,” Pederson told the Times last month.
Emmer has a long-established conservative viewpoint on immigration and other issues. While running for governor in 2010, Emmer expressed enthusiasm for Arizona’s immigration law passed that year — part of which since has been struck down in court — that was cheered by staunch conservatives but derided by critics as leading to racial profiling.
At a July forum with the Central MN TEA Party, Emmer said enforcing U.S. laws should take priority and questioned if estimates are too low of how many immigrants are living in the U.S. illegally.
Bachmann has been among the most vocal House opponents of an immigration bill that remains stalled in that chamber after having passed the Senate in June. The bill would create a citizenship path, boost the number of visas for skilled workers, authorize billions for border security measures and require certain border-security goals to be met before legalization could occur.