PolitiFact: Fact checking GOP presidential candidates on immigration

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Immigration is dominating the Republican presidential race and pitting the candidates against each other.

WINK News investigated some of the biggest claims about immigration from last week’s GOP debate on Fox News Channel.

Donald Trump:  ‘The Mexican government… sends the bad ones over.’

During the August 6th debate, Billionaire Donald Trump said he had conversations with “border patrol people,” but our team of independent researchers at PolitiFact say one of his claims is so outrageous, they give it their PANTS ON FIRE rating.

Trump said, “Our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid. And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning and they send the bad ones over because they don’t wanna pay for them.”

PolitiFact asked experts with the Center for Immigration Studies and the Mexican Migration Project. Overall, they found U.S. Labor demand to be the number one driver for immigration.

“We did not find anyone who said there was actually some kind of conspiracy by the Mexican government to send all their criminals to the United States, so that one got our pants on fire rating,” PolitiFact reporter Joshua Gillin said.

To read more about this fact-check, click here.

Marco Rubio:  America is the ‘most generous’ country when it comes to legal immigration

On the same topic of immigration, Senator Marci Rubio, R-Florida painted the U.S. As the global leader in the number of legal immigrants.

“This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration. There are a million people who legally immigrate to the United States and people feel like we’re being taken advantage of,” Rubio said.

PolitiFact rates the statement MOSTLY TRUE, and Rubio’s number is really close.

“About a million or 990,000 or so came to the country legally filling out their paperwork, getting a visa, and coming to the country through legal channels and that by far does put us number one in the amount of people who are allowed to do that,” Gillin said.

PolitiFact calls it *mostly true, however, because when you consider the percentage of legal immigrants in the overall population, the U.S. is actually closer to 19th place.

To read more about this fact-check, click here.

Ted Cruz:  Most of the GOP candidates ‘have supported amnesty’

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas has perhaps the most aggressive stance on immigration got our expert’s attention with this during the August 6th debate:

“A majority of the candidates on this stage support amnesty. I have never supported amnesty.”

“We rated his statement MOSTLY TRUE. It turns out most of them have at some point supported a path to citizenship.”

Cruz was referring to the other nine making up the top ten presidential candidates according to an average of national polls.

PolitiFact notes, there’s not real clear definition of “amnesty.” Our experts used criteria based on the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, signed by President Ronald Reagan. It allows illegal immigrants to become legal residents if they meet certain standards.

“Some of them actually do still support some kind of legal pathway, but what seems to really be the case for many of these candidates, they have changed their mind.”

Here’s where the candidates stand, according to PolitiFact.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., by Cruz’s standards, has been a clear supporter of amnesty, as he was a member of the Gang of Eight.  Since then, Rubio has softened his support for a path to citizenship and emphasized border security, but he still supports passing immigration legislation.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said in March 2015 that he would put his support behind a Gang of Eight-style immigration bill that included a path to citizenship. Like Rubio, though, Bush insisted at the debate that his position is not amnesty, because his ideal plan requires illegal immigrants to meet certain requirements before gaining legal status.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has avoided saying whether or not he would support a path to citizenship, though he has suggested he would not blanket deport all illegal immigrants. But in 2013, asked by Fox News if he would side with Cruz or the Gang of Eight, Huckabee said he would choose the latter — though he emphasized an eventual immigration bill had to emphasize border security. He has also previously endorsed a path to citizenship.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., did not support the Gang of Eight bill because he said it did not include strong enough provisions for ensuring less illegal immigration in the future. But in a March 2015 speech, Paul supported a path to some sort of normative legal status, but he did not use the word “citizenship.”

For the remaining four candidates, PolitiFact could not find their opinions on the Gang of Eight bill specifically, but all four have at some point supported a path to citizenship or legal status.  For more on that, and the amnesty fact-check, click here.

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