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Scott Walker's Far Right Immigration Stance Faces Young Republicans' Doubts

First Posted: Apr 26, 2015 04:42 PM EDT
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Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin

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Earlier this spring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican presidential hopeful for 2016, changed his position on immigration reform, taking a much more conservative stance on the issue than he previously held. Now he's sticking to his hard-right turn, in the face of doubts among some younger members of his party.

Walker, as we previously reported, publicly supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants if paying penalties was part of the process as recently as 2013. His take on the issue, to some degree or another, held steady for about a decade -- until this year.

Early this March, in the run-up to his expected announcement as a candidate for the 2016 presidential election, Walker backtracked, telling Fox News, "I don't believe in amnesty," and playing up the importance of border enforcement.

Last week, Walker went further, telling conservative radio host Glenn Beck, according to The Washington Post, that not only should undocumented immigrants "have to go back to their country of origin" to be eligible for citizenship -- he also wants to curb legal immigration to protect jobs in the U.S.

But while a hard stance on immigration might play to the conservative base of primary voters in Iowa, some young Republicans in Iowa this week questioned Walker's newfound attitude on the issue.

On Friday, two 20-something-year-old audience members, attending a speech Walker gave in Cedar Rapids, questioned Walker on his immigration stance on Friday. According to The New York Times, a self-identifying "young Republican" expressed concern that the party was alienating important potential GOP voters (read: Latinos) by not offering its own, comprehensive plan to fix immigration. 

In response, Walker reiterated that his first priority was to secure the U.S. border, reportedly adding that his goal was "making sure the legal immigration system is based on making our number one priority to protect American workers and their wages."

Later, when questioned again by another young Republican about the possibility of his stance turning away Hispanic voters, the two-term governor of Wisconsin responded, "In terms of how wide or how narrow the door's open, our number one priority is American workers and American wages. ... I don't know how anyone can argue against that."

Walker will undoubtedly find out the answer to that question during the presidential race, if he becomes the Republican candidate for president.

But Walker isn't alone in his sudden conservatism on the issue heading into the GOP primaries.

As we previously reported, a number of Republican candidates and hopefuls including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush have found themselves leaning more against undocumented immigrants, or simply changing their stance on major aspects of immigration reform.

While a slim majority of Americans (51 percent) support immigration reform for undocumented immigrants, according to a recent poll, a massive 70 percent of Republican voters want the next president to oppose instituting a path to citizenship. 

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