PELLA, IOWA – A foreign issue made domestic. An assassination abroad turned into a hardline immigration stance. After Mike Huckabee was done gladhanding with Iowans at the overcrowded Pizza Ranch restaurant, journalists grilled Huckabee on a hard right turn he took from the subject of Benazir Bhutto's assassination to illegal immigration.
In his speech today, Huckabee said it should be of concern to Americans that 660 illegal Pakistanis crossed the American border last year.
One reporter asked if that was ethnic baiting?
"No, not at all. I'm just saying maybe that a lot of Americans who live in Pella, Iowa maybe look halfway around the world and say, how does that affect me?" said Huckabee.
"And the way it affects them is that we need to understand that violence and terror is significant when it happens in Pakistan, it's more significant when it happens in our own cities, and it happens if people can slip across our border and we have no control over it," he continued.
"The fact is the immigration issue is not so much about people coming to pick lettuce or make beds. It's about people that can come with a shoulder fired missile and can do serious damage and harm to us, and that's what we need to be worried about. And the unsecure borders that we have pose a real national security threat."
Huckabee said the pace of building the border fence had to be accelerated. But Huckabee also made the "observation" that we have "more Pakistani illegals coming across our border than all other nationalities, except those immediately south of the border, and in light of what's happening in Pakistan, it ought to give us pause as to why are there so many illegals coming across these borders." He said he was citing numbers he had learned about during a briefing this morning. The campaign has not yet responded to requests for the study Huckabee was referring to.
Asked whether Huckabee thought this was the "most important implication" of what happened in Pakistan, Huckabee said no, but that he was "simply drawing a line between what's happening in Pakistan and the people back here."
"Because what I'm afraid is happening – a lot of Americans are watching [the assassination] on television and they don't think it has any correlation to them and it does. And it's not just immigration, it's the instability of the Middle East; it's the fact that Al Qaeda and the Taliban could in fact be emboldened by their capacity to take out a presidential candidate in a major nation. It's the increased instability that it creates in Pakistan and how it affects the whole geopolitical balance of that part of the world – it's all of those things, but it does have an impact on people here in the United States where we need to recognize our borders are not that safe."
Looking at the journalists, Huckabee said, "You guys live in this world and you swim in this sea everyday. A lot of people, they're just interested in going to work, coming home, they see this on television [and wonder], how does this touch me? And it does touch them."
Later he was asked about who he might name to his cabinet if elected. Huckabee said it was "presumptuous" to name names but he did list people who he's had "conversations" with on foreign policy: John Bolton, Ken Allard, Dick Allen, Frank Gaffney, Newt Gingrich, Richard Haas, as well as unnamed military personnel.