Former Republican New York Governor George Pataki recently entered the 2016 presidential race, highlighting what his national security and government reform agenda would be, but failing to mention what his policies on immigration would be as Commander-in-Chief. However, a quick look into his past record and public statements on immigration provide insight into a policy-maker who took practical measures to welcome immigrants in New York and who agreed in principle with the goal but not the approach President Obama took when announcing his executive actions on immigration.

In 2002, when Pataki was governor, he signed a bill granting in-state tuition for undocumented youth at New York public colleges. This move was a commonsense approach as New York is home to over 80,000 undocumented children brought to this country as children, the fourth highest concentration in the nation.

In addition he has been a vocal supporter on the need to reform our outdated immigration system. According to Politico:

“Pataki said that it is not realistic to say the United States will “send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains,” voicing support for a “pathway to citizenship at the back of the line” unless they are members of the military.”

His pragmatic approach goes back many years. In fact, According to the New York Times, Pataki publicly opposed California’s controversial Proposition 187, which was a restrictive state measure which would have denied public services to undocumented immigrants.

While seemingly agreeing with the idea in principle of finding solutions to the dilemma of millions people living in our nation without proper documentation, Pataki publicly criticized the President’s executive action on immigration, which would defer deportations for up to 4 million immigrants and implement many critically needed reforms including initiatives around integration and visa reform:

“It’s not a question of what you want to do. It’s what you can do… I think we do have to have an approach that provides the ability for those here illegally to legalize their status when they’ve obeyed the law, contributed to America…. But I don’t think the way the president did it was right.”

Pataki should continue to highlight what makes him stand out from the crowded field of GOP candidates. His record of pursuing inclusive immigration policies, like the ones he implemented as governor, is a great place to start.

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

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