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Santorum: U.S. Needs Immigrants To Grow Its Population

Santorum: U.S. Needs Immigrants To Grow Its Population

Photo: Rick Santorum

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By Amanda Peterson Beadle, ThinkProgress

Another Republican is coming around on supporting an immigration reform policy that is less hostile toward immigrants and Latino voters.

Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum told Politico it is “wrong” for the U.S. to deport so many people and that the U.S. needs immigrants to continue to the nation’s population growth:

I think the fact that we send some of those people back and don’t give them the opportunity to participate here is wrong,” Santorum told POLITICO. “I think we need to look at a simple fact: we are not having enough children to replace ourselves. Our country is not growing in population simply by the people that are here.”

He continued: “If it wasn’t for immigration, our country would be declining in population. It’s very hard to have economic growth and a forward looking country that is declining in population.” [...]

But what should lawmakers do? “You can’t be hostile on the issue of immigration, which I am not. You have to understand the values of immigrants who come to this country, which I do from my own personal experience. And then you need to talk about issues that create opportunities for those like my grandfather and my father who went from laborer to someone working in office to someone with a higher degree of education and moving on up,” he said.

According to Census data, Hispanics accounted for 50 percent of the U.S.’s population growth in the last decade. And the birth rate for foreign-born women in the U.S. is higher than for American women even as the nation’s birth rate is dropping.

This is a major shift from Santorum’s ideas about immigration policy during the 2012 GOP presidential primary. While the Republican candidates were falling over each other to be seen as the most anti-immigrant candidate, Santorum said mass deportation isn’t so bad because “we’re not sending them to any kind of difficult country.”

And he suggested that the solution solution to America’s immigration problem is more broken families because families should be broken up when the law is broken, including illegal immigration.

Along with Santorum’s softening immigration stance, former President George W. Bush said in a speech Tuesday that political leaders need to “keep in mind the contributions of immigrants.” And after the November election in which President Obama overwhelmingly won the support of Latino voters, top Republicans suddenly backed immigration reform. Congress is expected to work on a comprehensive immigration reform plan next year.