Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina caused a stir on Friday when she condemned a “racist tone” emerging in the immigration debate.
I also spoke to Fiorina on Friday – after the Politico interview took place, but before it was published – and brought up immigration.
By in large, Fiorina defended the Arizona law and called for tougher border security, but wouldn’t take a position on what to do with the millions of immigrants who are already here illegally.
“I think it is the height of hypocrisy for President Obama, Barbara Boxer, the Democrats to change the subject and say, ‘People in Arizona are terrible, and therefore we need comprehensive immigration reform,’” she said. “The assumption should be that it is the federal government’s responsibility to secure the border. They have failed in that responsibility. They do not need one new piece of legislation to secure the border. They just need to do it.”
She went on to say that, “I think we have to keep the subject on, ‘What is the federal government’s job?’ And the federal government’s job on immigration is two-fold. One is secure the border. And two, have a temporary worker program that works. And the federal government is doing neither one.”
Asked about what she would do with those already here illegally if the border were secured, she was evasive.
“I don’t think voters are going to tolerate a discussion of what we’re going to do next until we do what actually has to be done, period,” she said. “So I’m not prepared to even discuss what we do next.”
She did, however, say that she could not vote for a comprehensive bill along the lines of McCain-Kennedy.
And she defended the new law in Arizona.
“I support Arizona’s efforts to protect its citizens,” she told me. “They’ve been put in an untenable situation and that law is a reflection of their frustration and their fear and it was passed because of the federal government’s unwillingness and inability to do its job.”
Asked about some of the civil liberties issues critics had raised about the ability of law enforcement to demand papers from citizens, she said such attacks on the law were overblown.
“You can create all kinds of scary stories about what might happen, but that isn’t how the law is written,” she said. “The law does not provide the opportunity to simply ask someone for their papers for no reason. “
Overall, Fiorina’s comments on immigration reflect the political position in which she finds herself. She wants to win a Senate seat in a very Democratic state with a huge Hispanic population. But before she gets a chance, she has to win over conservatives to get the Republican nomination. Border security is a safe position that most people say they support. But handling the status of those already here illegally is much thornier and more contentious issue.