Ohio Governor John Kasich is the sixteenth Republican to enter the 2016 presidential race. His campaign website states that Kasich has “done it all.” However, Kasich’s record shows that he has done little to address immigration issues in Ohio, and he has yet to put forward a concrete vision of what federal policy should look like in order to bring our immigration system into the twenty-first century.

As a candidate for Governor of Ohio, Kasich adopted restrictionist rhetoric. He said in a 2010 debate that any kind of comprehensive immigration reform must include strong enforcement measures to deter undocumented immigration in the future. Additionally, he voiced support for a constitutional amendment ending birthright citizenship. This position violates the Fourteenth Amendment and is a distraction from addressing meaningful solutions to fixing our outdated immigration system.

Kasich would go on to be elected Governor and under his leadership, Ohio was named in a report as “the worst state for undocumented immigrants” when it comes to accessing health services, higher education, and driver’s licenses.

Perhaps this is because Kasich did little to address any immigration issues in Ohio. Meanwhile, localities like Cincinnati, Springfield, Dayton, and the state capital Columbus created tasks forces with the goal of becoming more immigrant-friendly. Kasich would have been wise to follow their lead and taken steps at a state level to harness the economic power of immigrants in the state, who already add tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to Ohio’s economy, instead of remaining silent on immigration during his term as Governor.

But when Kasich was reported to be a possible contender for President, his rhetoric changed. At the Republican Governors Association (RGA) meeting in November 2014, he hesitantly expressed support for a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants – a stark contrast to the other potential Republican candidates attending the conference:

“My sense is I don’t like the idea of citizenship when people jump the line, [but] we may have to do it… Everybody in this country has to feel as though they have an opportunity.”

More recently, Kasich appears to have reaffirmed his lukewarm position on a pathway to citizenship:

Kasich said he’d prefer not to offer such immigrants a path to citizenship but says he believes it needs to be an option on the table so that immigration activists are willing to open negotiations: “If they’re law-abiding and they register, I think they ought to be able to stay… They may have to pay a penalty. … You don’t ditch the line … and if you do, you don’t get rewarded for it.”

When President Obama announced his executive action on immigration, Ohio would join twenty-five states in a lawsuit that blocked implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA. But Kasich has remained silent on whether or not he supports his own state’s lawsuit. When confronted on his position, his campaign manager spokesman Rob Nichols said, “The attorney general doesn’t need our blessing to sue.”

Kasich claims that he “maybe a little smarter now” when it comes to immigration. However, it is hard to ascertain if he truly wants to adopt commonsense policies because until recently, Kasich had little to say on the matter.

Photo by Michael Vadon.