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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hunter says immigration issue plays to his strength


Presidential hopeful sees issue as fuel to propel him above low single digits in polls

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - 2:00 am

GreenvilleOnline


Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter speaks Tuesday at a campaign appearance in Greenville.
GEORGE GARDNER / Staff


By Dan Hoover

Duncan Hunter is running uphill as fast as he can.

For the 14-term California congressman and Republican presidential candidate who'll turn 59 on May 31, the clock is ticking.

Unless he makes a strong upward move in the polls soon, breaking out of the low single digits for example, he could be part of the first winnowing process in the current 10-man field.

Hunter, on the second day of a four-day swing through South Carolina, said Tuesday in Greenville that the immigration issue that exploded Friday with the announcement of a bipartisan compromise bill in the Senate, roiling GOP presidential politics, is made to order for him.

His campaign is a three-legged stool, standing on a strong national defense, secure borders and two-way trade.

"It's a boost for our campaign because it focuses attention on one of my strengths," Hunter said of the proposed legislation. "I'm getting good traction from this."

He has his bona fides as an immigration hawk, he says, noting that "I'm the only candidate that has built a border fence" and now this "grandly produced" Senate bill, approved by the White House, would vastly decrease the authorized 800-mile fence by more than half.

"They don't want to build the fence," Hunter said, adding that so far, only 11 miles have been completed, "and at that rate, it'll take 20 years to complete."

He's convinced that the fence, from the Pacific Ocean through Arizona and New Mexico, must be the first step in securing porous borders that terrorists have now discovered are far easier entry points than heavily policed airports.

Hunter won funding in 1997 for the first border fence, this one of 10 miles, from the ocean into the hills along the U.S.-Mexican border in his San Diego County district. That fence, he said, slowed illegal immigration and helped reduce crime in urban San Diego.

The Senate bill, put together by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., presidential rival John McCain, R-Arizona, and McCain's South Carolina ally, Lindsey Graham, is amnesty legislation and is unworkable, Hunter said, because it would require heads of households to return to their native countries to begin a long and expensive process toward legal status and eventual citizenship.

"They're not going," he said.

"The idea of legislating our out-of-control borders is senseless," Hunter said.

Pointing to his background as an airborne trooper in Vietnam, four-year chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee and 27-year record in promoting defense, Hunter said, "I can look the American people in the eye in times of crisis."

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