In April, during the lead up to the launch of his presidential bid, Mike Huckabee's political action committee released a web ad on immigration. The ad features a farmer from Texas, who warns that an open border has let in "the drug runners, the terrorists, the human traffickers."
In the video, Huckabee says, "We've got to repeal Obama's unconstitutional executive orders, oppose amnesty and secure the border. You don't punish people for living by the rules. If you're rewarding people who play outside the rules, and punish people who live within the rules, pretty soon nobody is going to play by the rules."
"By securing the border and protecting American workers and their livelihoods, we'll finally help every American earn his or her maximum wage," Huckabee concludes.
The ad's message was clear: Huckabee is going to protect American workers and will be tough on undocumented immigrants.
When asked about a pathway to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants in May, Huckabee avoided answering the question directly, instead saying, "Until we have a secure border, there isn't any other discussion for us to be having."
But Huckabee has expressed support for such a measure in the past.
When the Senate was debating the bipartisan immigration bill in 2013 – which included a path to citizenship – Huckabee said he supported the bill.
"You don't just wait and do nothing on the pathway process while you're working on the fencing," he said on Fox News. "And let's be clear: We're never going to have 100 percent border security. There's always somebody who's going to find a way to break into the system."
Even as recently as January of this year, Huckabee was touting his support of a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, so-called DREAMers.
"I don't believe that it is a just thing to punish someone who had nothing to do with the breaking of the law," Huckabee told a crowd hosted by the Family Foundation, a Christian advocacy group that lobbies the Virginia legislature. "What I want to do is see, what can we do to put that person in a position where they do abide by the law and become a citizen? I would like that person to become a very generous tax-paying citizen rather than somebody who is going to take taxes away from the rest of us."
This is not the first time Huckabee has tried to downplay what some conservatives would view as a soft stance on immigration policy.
Prior to his 2008 bid for the Republican nomination, Huckabee had, as governor of Arkansas, proposed a plan to grant financial aid for college to children of undocumented immigrants, arguing that Arkansas should "open both our doors and our opportunities to them.
Huckabee defended that proposal during a November 2007 primary debate, saying, "It accomplished two things that we knew we wanted to do, and that is, number one, bring people from illegal status to legal status; and the second thing, we wanted people to be taxpayers, not tax takers, and that's what that provision did."
Then-Governor Huckabee in 2005 outlining a plan to grant financial aid for college to children of undocumented immigrants.
In his book From Hope to Higher Ground, released in January of 2007, Huckabee supported "a pathway toward legal status and citizenship" for those who admitted violating immigration laws and paid a fine.
"What does make sense is a revision of our laws, one giving those here illegally a process through which they pay a reasonable fine in admission of their guilt for the past infraction of violating our border laws and agree to strictly adhere to a pathway toward legal status and citizenship. In exchange, our government gains the capability to know who is here, why they are here, where they are, and whether they carry a communicable disease. But much of the national debate has become mired more in definitions than in a real solution."
By December of 2007, Huckabee was advocating for self-deportation, and that a pathway to citizenship would take those immigrants back to their native countries first.
"We call in essence for people to voluntarily make their way back to their home country. Simultaneously with that, is the modernization of the process become legal," Huckabee said during a press conference in Concord, New Hampshire.
"That pathway's gonna take them back," he added. "When we looked at this issue, more realistically, particularly in light of, uh, the fact that the American people do not want someone getting in front of a line, whether it's in, uh, a traffic line, getting out of a football stadium, or it's, uh, the line checking out of a supermarket."
Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.
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