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AL-06 candidate Will Brooke expresses support for ‘path to legal status’ for illegals

Will Brooke, Republican candidate for U.S. House in Alabama's 6th Congressional District
Will Brooke, Republican candidate for U.S. House in Alabama’s 6th Congressional District

6th Congressional District candidate Will Brooke raised some eyebrows during a candidate forum at Hoover High School on Monday after expressing his support for “a path to legal status” for illegal immigrants and calling for “comprehensive immigration reform,” both phrases that have become red flags to some in the conservative base. Later in the debate he sought to clarify his position by noting that he is “not in favor of amnesty.”

“Many hispanic families are separated due to our immigration laws,” a student said to Mr. Brooke from the microphone. “What laws or actions would you take as congressman to resolve this problem?”

Brooke’s full, unedited answer was as follows:

The immigration laws are really creating a serious problem in the United States right now. It’s not so much the laws themselves as it is a failure of a succession of presidents — in particular this president — to enforce the laws that are already on the books. It’s left us with open borders, an unregulated flow of immigrants coming into the United States, which is not good for our country in many ways, and it’s certainly not good for those immigrants because they wind up being here illegally.

Congress needs to deal with this. It’s one of the responsibilities that is given to congress specifically under the terms of the Constitution that I showed you earlier. And both the president, on the one hand, is ignoring the law and not enforcing the law that’s on the books, and congress is failing to deal with a very serious national problem. So we need to deal with that.

But the first step is for us to take control of our borders in such a way that we can regulate who’s coming and going. Number two, we need to have a path to legal status for those who are in the country illegally so that we can begin to deal with them. They are here, so we have to deal with them. If they don’t abide by the law or refuse to get on that path then they should leave the country. Then finally, we should have comprehensive immigration reform which gives us control over how immigrants come into our country and we need to regulate that in the best interest of the United States and its citizens.

Brooke’s comments immediately caught the ear of Dr. Chad Mathis’ campaign, who released a press release titled, “What is Will Brooke Thinking?!?” that included a video excerpt of Brooke’s statement transcribed above.

(more after the video)

Leah Brandon, morning news anchor at WERC, later in the forum asked a followup question to Mr. Brooke, noting that some of the comments he made on immigration are often viewed as “code for something else.”

“You did say that you supported a path to citizenship, and you also said those words that strike fear in some people’s hearts about the ‘comprehensive immigration reform,’ which basically means we’re going to open up the borders and there are going to be 20 million people that can now become citizens,” Brandon said. “So can you just kind of clarify, is that what you mean?”

Again, here’s Brooke’s full response:

No. So thank you for asking the followup question. I don’t think I said ‘path to citizenship,’ I think what I said was ‘path to legal status,’ and they’re very different. I am not in favor of amnesty. Let’s make that real clear. I never have been. But there are 11 million people in our country today that are not here legally. We’ve got to figure out what to do with them.

Now are we going to send out paddy wagons and load them all up and ship them out? No. A) That task would be very difficult, not impossible, but very difficult. B) Many of them are serving very important roles in our economy. If you go talk to a farmer in Chilton County or Blount County, you’ll figure out in a hurry how heavily they rely on immigrant labor to get their work done.

So it’s important that we find a way to take those people that are here that are law abiding residents or visitors in our country and put them on a path where they can declare their existence and be on a path to legal status so that we know who they are, know they are here. If they are breaking the laws they need to leave. If they won’t submit to that system or agree to take part in that system, then they need to leave. But then the ones that remain can play the role that immigrants have always played in our U.S. economy and in our culture.

Number two, when I use the words ‘comprehensive reform,’ I believe we need to do what America has always done, which is control our borders, have a rational immigration system that sets, basically — it’s not a real pleasant word but it’s the one that applies here — quotas, country by country and that we identify people that have special skills whether educational, occupational or vocational that serve our interests as a country. And we need to attract those people. We have way too many people who come to the United States that we allow to go back to their countries and take all the skills they’ve learned here back home with them.

You can view that answer at the 1:25:50 mark in a video uploaded by the forum organizers HERE.

A second followup question asked Mr. Brooke if he favored the state-level immigration bill, HB56, sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, who is also a fellow AL-06 candidate. Brooke responded by saying the only reason Montgomery was compelled to debate the issue is because congress was not doing it’s job and handling it on the federal level.

What do you think about Brooke’s responses on immigration? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting @YHPolitics.

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