New York Times
November 29, 2007
Q Governor Huckabee, as governor in Arkansas, you gave illegal aliens a discount for college in Arkansas by allowing them to pay lower in-state tuition rates. However, we have thousands of military members currently serving our country in Iraq with children at home. If these children chose to move to Arkansas to attend college, they would have to pay three times the tuition rate that illegal aliens pay. Would you support a federal law which would require any state to give these tuition rates to illegal aliens to give the same rate to the children of our military members?
MR. COOPER: Governor Huckabee, you have 90 seconds.
MR. HUCKABEE: Thank you very much.
Ashley, first of all, let me just express that you're a little misinformed. We never passed a bill that gave special privileges to the children of illegals to go to college.
Now, let me tell you what I did do. I supported a bill that would have allowed those children who had been in our schools their entire school life the opportunity to have the same scholarship that their peers had who had also gone to high school with them and sat in the same classrooms. They couldn't just move in in their senior year and go to college. It wasn't about out-of-state tuition; it was an academic meritorious scholarship called the Academic Challenge Scholarship.
Now, let me tell you a couple of provisions of it.
And by the way, it didn't pass. It passed the House, but got in the Senate and got caught up in the same kind of controversy that this country's caught up in.
Here's what happened. This bill would have said that if you came here not because you made the choice but because your parents did, that we're not going to punish a child because the parent committed a crime. That's not what we typically do in this country. It said that if you'd sat in our schools from the time you're 5 or 6 years old and you had become an A-plus student, you completed the core curriculum, you were an exceptional student, and you also had to be drug and alcohol free, and the other provision, you had to be applying for citizenship.
It accomplished two thing that we knew we wanted to do, and that is, number one, bring people from illegal status to legal status; and the second thing, we wanted people to be taxpayers, not tax takers, and that's what that provision did.
And finally, would we give that provision to the children of veterans personally? What we've done with not just the children of veterans but, most importantly, veterans, is disgraceful in this country. And that's why I've proposed a Veterans Bill of Rights that, if anything, would give our veterans the most --
MR. COOPER: Time.
MR. HUCKABEE: -- exceptional privileges of all, because they are the ones who have earned all of our freedom, every single one of them. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. COOPER: Governor Romney, you called -- you called Governor Huckabee a liberal on immigration.
(Applause for Mr. Huckabee continues.)
MR. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I like Mike, and I heard what he just said. But he basically said that he fought for giving scholarships to illegal aliens. And he had a great reason for doing so. It reminds me of what it's like talking to liberals in Massachusetts. All right? They have great reasons for taking taxpayer money and using it for things they think are the right thing to do.
Mike, that's not your money. That's the taxpayers' money. (Cheers, applause.) And the right thing here is to say to people that are here legally as citizens or legal aliens, we're going to help you.
But if you're here illegally, you ought to be able to return home or get in line with everybody else, but illegals are -- are not going to get taxpayer-funded breaks that are better than our own citizens', those that come from other states or those that come here -- (inaudible).
MR. COOPER: You have 30 seconds to respond.
MR. HUCKABEE: Well, but they didn't get something better; they had to earn it.
And you know something, I worked my way through college. I started work when I was 14 and I had to pay my own way through, and I know how hard it was to get that degree. I'm standing here tonight on this stage because I got an education. If I hadn't had the education, I wouldn't be standing on this stage. I might be picking lettuce. I might be a person who needed government support rather than who was giving so much money in taxes I want to get rid of the tax code that we've got and make it really different.
MR. ROMNEY: I --
MR. HUCKABEE: Mitt, let me finish. No, let me finish, Mitt.
MR. COOPER: Time.
MR. HUCKABEE: In all due respect, we're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did. We're a better country than that. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. COOPER: We've got another question -- we've got one more question for --
MR. ROMNEY: I get -- I get a chance to just respond to that.
We're not punishing children for what their parents did. And I respect the fact that you worked your way through college and it got you to where you are. That's wonderful. A lot of people in this country do tremendous things to get their education.
But the question is, are we going to give taxpayer-funded benefits to kids that are here illegally and put them ahead of kids that are here legally? There's only so much money to go around --
MR. HUCKABEE: No -- (inaudible) -- (number of scholarships ?), Mitt.
MR. ROMNEY: -- and we decide -- there's only so much money to go around -- let me finish too.
MR. HUCKABEE: Well, let's just be factual.
MR. COOPER: You've got 30 seconds. Your time's up.
MR. ROMNEY: There's only so much money. Are we going to say that kids that are here illegally are going to get a special deal? Are they going to get a deal better than other kids? Do they get benefits by virtue of coming here illegally? And the answer is no.
MR. HUCKABEE: No, they've got to earn it. That was the difference. They had to earn it by their record.
MR. ROMNEY: They had to be here illegally.
MR. COOPER: We've got another question from a YouTube watcher. Let's watch.
Q Good evening, candidates. This is Seepser (ph) from Arlington, Texas, and this question's for Ron Paul.
Now, I've met a lot of your supporters online, but I've noticed that a good number of them seem to buy into this conspiracy theory regarding the Council on Foreign Relations and some plan to make a North American Union by merging the United States with Canada and Mexico. These supporters of yours seem to think that you also believe in this theory.
So my question to you is, do you really believe in all this, or are people just putting words in your mouth?
for complete transcript of the debate: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/28/us/politics/28debate-transcript.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=politics&pagewanted=print