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Huck Turns Tough on Immigration

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The following piece is produced by HuffPost's OffTheBus.

Lest he be mistaken for a "compassionate conservative," Mike Huckabee decided to take a ride on the anti-immigrant Tancredomobile. With timing some of his handlers must be labeling as unfortunate, Huckabee, on the eve of the Univision debate in Miami, announced a "9-Point Strategy for Immigration Enforcement and Border Security," a.k.a. the "Secure America Plan." It ranks the top spot on the "Issues" page of his campaign website.

Most of the plan is old news, comprised of strategies hawked by most of the candidates in both parties. But three aspects of the plan need a deeper look.

First, Huckabee promotes a 120-day window during which "illegals" can register with the feds, return to their home countries, and then...wait. Why would they do that? Because if they don't, and they get caught and deported, they will be "barred from future reentry for a period of 10 years." There's just one big problem with this idea: it's already the law. Our current immigration statute sports 3-year, 10-year and permanent bars to reentry for the bulk of aliens here unlawfully now. Too bad Huckabee's staff never bothered to check this with a lawyer before throwing it up on the web. (And the idea that 12-20 million aliens will take advantage of this great deal so as to be able to wait abroad for their "place in line" beggars belief.)

Next, Huckabee proposes to reform the current system by, among other things, eliminating the green card category for siblings. Whatever happened to "family values?" Yet, paradoxically, Huckabee wants to tweak the "process so that those patiently and responsibly seeking to come here legally will not have to wait decades to share in the American dream." There's only one way to do that, and that's to add hundreds of thousands of visas to the current backlogged quotas. Either he's not aware of that and will have to backtrack, or he is aware of it and is hiding the fact from his fans, who probably wouldn't approve.

Finally, many have noted that the "Huckabee" plan is really the Mark Krikorian (Center for Immigration Studies) plan, almost to the word. This sends two messages: Huckabee's team can't be bothered to form an original thought; and Huckabee won't be "soft" on immigration, despite his earlier support for the Bush-McCain-Kennedy plan and his prior kind thoughts toward immigrants.

The big question now is how Latinos viewing the Miami Univision debate will reconcile the old nice Mike with the new tough one. As the debate transcript shows, none of the candidates gave any quarter on border issues.