WASHINGTON — The two candidates running to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson, differed Monday on key points in the immigration debate.
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey called on his fellow Democrats to support plans by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that include a path to citizenship for those brought into the country illegally as children but who go on to serve in the military.
Republican State Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine said that she opposes any such path and that border security must be the federal government's first priority.
Kerrey said that the two parties need to compromise and that Democrats should bring up Romney's proposal. Even if not perfect, Kerrey said, that proposal is better than anything in current law.
“Rather than saying, ‘Oh, he's a big flip-flopper,' say he's changed his position. He's trying to move towards reconciliation of the conflict,” Kerrey said. “Let's take him up on his offer and see if we can't get this issue behind us.”
Fischer said she opposes any incentives for those who have entered the country illegally.
“If you look at my record in the Legislature, when it comes to what I define as incentives for illegals, I have been against offering any kind of incentives,” she told The World-Herald. “I'm against a path to citizenship.”
She said the borders have to be secured before discussing what to do with the millions who are in the country illegally.
“National security in my opinion is the No. 1 priority of the federal government, and that means having a secure border, and agents need to have the resources that they need in order to protect that border,” she said.
Funding for stepped-up border security, she said, would come from cuts to other programs. She declined to specify programs for cuts, saying simply that “everything's on the table.”
Fischer also criticized President Obama for bypassing Congress with his recent announcement that young people brought to the country illegally as children need not fear deportation.
Kerrey urged Congress to codify Obama's action along with Romney's plan and to also include input from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
The key is pushing people toward a legal working status rather than harassing them and the businesses who hire them, Kerrey said.
“They're typically working extremely hard, they're saving their money, they're going to church on Sunday, they're hanging together as a family, they're doing everything that we say as Americans that we admire and respect,” Kerrey said. “We've got to make an effort to change our law so they feel a part of the community.”
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