ANALYSIS | The highlight of Rick Santorum's campaign came when he challenged Rick Perry on immigration at the Fox News/Google debate held in Orlando, Fla. According to the Huffington Post, Santorum attacked Perry's support of binational health insurance between Mexico and the United States, jabbing, "I mean, I don't even think Barack Obama would be for binational health insurance."
Here is a look at Rick Santorum's stance on immigration:
Santorum has been steadfast in his support of a border fence along the southern border. As a Senator, he voted yes on H.R. 6061, the "Secure Fence Act," which provided "physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful border entry," according to ontheissues.com. Santorum has followed suit, commenting at the Sept. 12 CNN Republican debate: "I believe we need to build more fence. I believe that we need to secure the border using technology and more personnel." But the border fence debate is not done some five years after the initial bill was passed.
Although the border fence has stopped some illegal crossings where it has been constructed, opponents say illegal immigrants have just found other ways to enter the United States. One man making that argument is Rick Perry, who Santorum will need to surpass in order to win the GOP's nomination. While Santorum has gained the upper hand thus far in the immigration debate with Perry, he will continually have to defend a border fence which could cost up to $49 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.
In a September interview on "The Laura Ingraham Show," Santorum pointed to his record as a senator as the best indicator of his stance on immigration. Indeed, Sen. Santorum stayed true to his conservatism while voting on bills in the Senate. He voted "no" on allowing illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security, giving guest workers a path to citizenship, and giving benefits to illegal immigrants. In an interview with conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, Santorum complained that his opposition to illegal immigration and the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, didn't "move any numbers" in the 2006 elections. His past experiences may be why Santorum has softened his stance since his 2006 re-election defeat.
A Softer Santorum?
In a Jan. 24, 2011, interview, Santorum seemed open to the possibility of more lax legal immigration laws, which would allow illegal immigrants to return to Mexico, but not wait inordinate amounts of time to return. Santorum stated, "When you open up the spigot a little bit more, that gives people the opportunity to go back to Mexico and not have to wait 10 years to come back," according to CNSnews.com. Although conservatives abhor such policies, the statement has not come back to haunt Santorum.
Santorum's ability to fly under the radar thus far is both his greatest weakness and strength. He has been unable to attract the type of attention to make him a legitimate threat to Mitt Romney or Rick Perry. But he has also avoided much of the scrutiny directed at the frontrunner. Every Republican candidate who has made noise has fallen victim to the relentless 24-hour news cycle. Should Santorum close in on Romney and Perry, he will have to answer more questions about his comments and record as a senator.