Fox News host Bill O'Reilly challenged GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann in an interview Monday on her recent campaign promise to deport all undocumented immigrants, claiming that the human and fiscal cost of the task could make it extremely difficult.
"[T]heory is one thing. Dragging people out, putting them on a bus with their children crying is going to be quite something else," O'Reilly said, after Bachmann spoke about the supposed cost to the United States by undocumented immigrants.
"It can be done," Bachmann replied. "That's the thing. It can be done."
(Video above, comments begin around the 2-minute mark)
"It's time we do take a tough stance," Bachmann said later. "I'm a compassionate person but we have to get tough on illegal immigration. It's hurting a lot of people."
Earlier in the segment, Bachmann said undocumented immigrants pose "a big problem" to the nation, citing "anchor babies" and a column by Mark Steyn that said "50 percent of Mexico's population has moved north of the border" as examples. It's unclear whether Steyn was arguing -- and Bachmann then reciting -- that half of Mexico's 112 million citizens are now residing in the United States.
Roughly two-thirds of all the undocumented immigrants in the United States have been in the country for 10 or more years, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report released last week.
On Saturday, Bachmann told a Fox News forum that her mass-deportation plan would include crackdowns on "sanctuary cities," which bar government employees from inquiring about immigration status, and increased enforcement by immigration agents. She also alleged that undocumented immigrants cost the country $113 billion every year, a statistic that her campaign told The Huffington Post it took from a press release by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigration group.
A report by the Center for American Progress found that deporting all undocumented immigrants could cost upwards of $2.6 trillion.
Bachmann has portrayed herself throughout her campaign as a hardliner on immigration. In October, she made a point to announce she wouldn't do anything for the children of undocumented immigrants. At the time, Texas Governor Rick Perry was fielding criticism for standing by a law he signed in 2001 to give in-state tuition to some undocumented young people.
"Their parents are the ones who brought them here ... they did not have the legal right to come to the United States," Bachmann said at the time. "We do not owe people who broke our laws to come into the country. We don't owe them anything."
She later took aim at former House speaker Newt Gingrich, calling his immigration position, which he has tried to hone after taking fire for a perceived moderate stance on the issue, the "most liberal" of all the GOP candidates.
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