ANALYSIS | Jon Huntsman is perhaps the most curious of the eight candidates for president in the 2012 Republican race. He served a Democratic president as ambassador to China yet he is running for president as a Republican.
As the former governor of Utah, Huntsman had direct relations with Mexico when he hosted Mexican President Vicente Fox in May 2006. It was a return trip for Fox, who welcomed Huntsman to Mexico City in July 2005. The Deseret News reported Huntsman called his plan the "Alliance for Prosperity" when he wanted to encourage cultural exchanges, more tourism and economic development.
Although Utah cannot sign treaties with Mexico, Huntsman's move was designed to boost economic opportunities for both entities. One of the fruits of the relationship has been the Sister Cities program between Sandy City, Utah, and Piedra Negras, Mexico.
There aren't many politicians in the United States who supported the DREAM Act by which children of illegal immigrants could get financial assistance to attend college. Huntsman comes across as more moderate than his opponents when he supports immigration reform for the children of illegal immigrants.
"I believe that young kids when they're dragged here to the United States have no say over their journey. They have no say over their destiny. And we either have a two-tiered bifurcated system or we allow, somehow, people to achieve the American dream," Huntsman said in New Hampshire Aug. 5, according to CNN.
Huntsman calls American border security "an embarrassment" on his own website. Further, he feels that a border fence may be necessary and that there are no easy solutions to immigration reform. The Salt Lake Tribune reported May 21 that the former Utah governor says deporting people isn't an option and there is a simpler solution.
When it comes to criticizing his opponents, Huntsman made waves in mid-September when Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the border couldn't be secure during a debate. The Salt Lake Tribune stated Huntsman responded by calling Perry's comments "treasonous." He later tried to explain the jab at Perry was a joke.
Huntsman is against a border fence with Mexico. However, he feels it should be an option if other policies fail to tighten the border.
States vs. Federal Rights
Huntsman believes border states should work with the federal government to come up with a solution. The Deseret News reported in October 2005 that he felt the 18 members of the Western Governors Association should consider some kind of immigration proposals. Huntsman wanted a move to allow illegal immigrants to become legal residents and earn green cards. He proposed the group of governors should lobby the federal government to enforce border laws as written to prevent illegal immigrants from coming over the border.
Further, Huntsman was concerned about the estimated 85,000 illegal immigrants already within Utah's borders. He also said what works for Utah could also work for the estimated 500,000 annual illegal immigrants coming to the United States in general.
There are no easy answers to immigration. Huntsman is one of three candidates who have had direct experience in dealing with this issue on a state level, in addition to Perry and Mitt Romney.