During yesterday's Republican presidential candidate debate in Florida, a question was directly put to the assembled politicians: "What would you do to remove the illegal immigrants from our country?"
What we didn't learn, however, is what they would do to remove the illegal immigrants from our country.
This question came from a Tea Party member in Cincinnati, who probably wouldn't have had to ask it if it had been answered when it was offered up to the candidates a week earlier, in California. More specifically, on September 7, MSNBC trotted out a journalist from Telemundo who put this question to Michelle Bachmann: "Let's say that in 2012 or 2013 there's a fence, the border is secure, gasoline is $2.00 a gallon. What do you do then with eleven million people, as the Speaker says, many of whom have U.S. born children here, what do you do?"
In response, the congresswoman spoke about her discussions with Cubans, the crisis in Mexico, and many other things that were something other than an answer. To his credit, the reporter followed up her song and dance response with: "A quick thirty second rebuttal, on the specific question, the fence is built, the border's under control, what do you do with eleven and a half million people who are here without documents and with U.S. born children?"
Not only did Ms. Bachmann offer up more of the same evasiveness, none of the other candidates, many of whom are desperate for more face time in front of the cameras, gave the response that would have brought the conservative crowd to its feet: Illegal aliens will be removed from this country. Some by deportation proceedings, and others will leave voluntarily after my administration cracks down on employers of illegal aliens with laws already on the books, and when we implement nationwide use of the E-Verify system.
Why are we hearing, instead, endless refrains about not having "that conversation" until the border is secured? Why is no Republican debate participant capitalizing on this wonderful opportunity for additional media attention and way to endear himself to the conservative base? Simple, because none of them intends to do it, and no one wants to be accused of flip-flopping after he receives the GOP nomination.
Mainstream GOP presidential candidates are 1) owned by big business interests, and 2) intent upon winning a decent share of the Latino vote in the general election. Further, there are some, like Governor Huntsman, Congressman Paul, Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry, who clearly believe that making today's illegal aliens permanent additions to our country is the right thing to do. Their records as elected officials, and/or writings, have already answered the questions, listed above, that they have made no effort to answer responsively in front of conservative audiences.
As for the others, whose positions are less clear based upon their actions as elected office holders, it doesn't matter what they believe. What is clearly most important to them is the ability to swing to the center after the Republican primary. Best interests of the country? Defending the rights of people who have played by the rules and applied to enter legally? Making jobs available with deportations? Reducing the burdens on public schools? Removing recipients of WIC benefits and Section 8 housing? Standing for principle and the Rule of Law? Sorry folks, as we have seen, these are clearly not the priorities of any Republican appearing on these debate forum stages. If they were, the answers to the direct questions (listed above) would have been a lot different. Unfortunately, what they're not saying is telling you everything you need to know.