Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker endorsed a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants during a private dinner with Republican leaders in New Hampshire two weeks ago, backing away from the more hard-line position he has staked out in public and obscuring where he stands on the hot-button issue.
At a March 13 dinner at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford organized by New Hampshire GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Horn, Walker, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, was asked how he would address the problem of roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
After he declared that securing the United States border with Mexico is “our first priority,” Walker said that undocumented immigrants now residing in the country could “secure their citizenship” as long as they “get in the back of line” and wait like anyone else applying for citizenship.
The comments, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, were relayed to CNN by a Republican briefed on the dinner who did not want to be identified.
During a question-and-answer session, Walker said that undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should not be deported, the Republican source said.
Though Walker once supported a path to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration overhaul, his New Hampshire comments are at odds with more recent assurances that he opposes what he calls “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. Walker admitted in a Fox News interview earlier this month that he changed his position on the issue.
The newly-reported comments are also in conflict with the sentiments of many conservatives who hold sway in Republican primaries and fiercely oppose the idea of granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants.
Walker’s remarks were reported Thursday by the Wall Street Journal, citing two attendees who confirmed the comments on-the-record. One Republican at the dinner, Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield, told the Journal that Walker said illegal immigrants should “get to the back of the line for citizenship.”