Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards says "English is the language of commerce" in America and English proficiency should be one of the conditions of citizenship for immigrants.
During a campaign event today in Des Moines, a man who described himself as "an advocate for immigrants" asked Edwards for his thoughts on the issue. "You’re going to like some of what I have to say and you’re not going to like some it, but I’m going to tell you what I believe," Edwards told the crowd.
Edwards has answered Iowans’ questions about immigration policy in many forums here. "I do think that somebody who came here illegally…should pay a fine. I don’t think we should pretend it didn’t happen and the second thing is — more controversial — I think they should learn to speak English," Edwards said, to applause from the crowd of more than 200. "But I am strongly in favor of comprehensive reform."
According to Edwards, what is happening along the southern border is "unacceptable" and security needs to be beefed up with more border agents and better technology to track people trying to enter the country illegally. "We should crack down on employers who are knowingly violating the law and exploiting workers," Edwards said, to applause.
Edwards contends those who are currently in the country illegally should have some way to "earn" citizenship by paying a fine. "I don’t think we should have 11 (or) 12 million people — whatever the best estimate is — living in this country and living in the shadows," Edwards said. "I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s who we are."
Edwards’ campaign today announced 1500 Iowa women have endorsed the former North Carolina senator’s candidacy — and it amounts to at least one female backer in each of 800 Iowa voting precincts.
Edwards told reporters it’s another example of the "serious, sustained organization" he’s building for his second go-round in Iowa’s Caucuses.
"We know what we’re doing," Edwards said. "…We’re seasoned at this."
Throughout much 2003 Edwards lagged in public opinion polls, then his stock started rising late that year and Edwards wound up finishing second in the 2004 Iowa Caucuses.