Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker visited the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday. The visit comes in light of previous remarks he made in support of a controversial immigration plan he outlined at a private dinner in New Hampshire earlier this month.
According to John McCormick of Bloomberg, the potential Republican contender for the 2016 presidency toured the Rio Grande Valley. He also flew in a helicopter along the U.S. border with Mexico as a guest of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who wrote about the visit on Twitter.
"I toured the Texas border with Scott Walker explaining how the federal government has failed to secure it," Abbott wrote.
However, McCormick reported that after Abbott met with reporters after the tour, Walker did his best to avoid answering questions about his stance on immigration, which he made in New Hampshire. According to Reid J. Epstein of the Wall Street Journal, the Wisconsin governor backed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and to eventually become eligible for citizenship.
"Mr. Walker's remarks, which were confirmed by three people present, vary from the call he has made for 'no amnesty'-a phrase widely employed by people who believe immigrants who broke the law by entering the country without permission shouldn't be awarded legal status or citizenship," Epstein wrote.
Epstein reported that Walker made the comments at a March 13 private dinner organized by New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford, N.H. He also mocked former presidential candidate Mitt Romney's suggesting that immigrants would "self-deport" themselves, according to information gathered from people who attended the dinner.
"He said no to citizenship now, but later they could get it," Copper Door owner Bill Greiner said.
According to Epstein, Walker made those remarks in the hopes of trying to appeal to both conservatives and mainstream voters. His spokeswoman, Kirsten Kukowski, issued a statement on Thursday.
"We strongly dispute this account," Kukowski said. "Gov. Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed. His position has not changed; he does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants."
However, Walker's position on immigration has shifted constantly, which has opened him up to criticism from Democrats and some of his rivals, according to McCormick. However, the governor did admit that his "view has changed" on the issue in a Fox News Sunday interview earlier this month.
"Walker's imprecision and the subtle-yet-important distinctions between 'amnesty,' citizenship and legalization have left a muddled mess that's damaging Walker's standing as an early front-runner among prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates," McCormick wrote. "It fits with a storyline Walker rivals have pushed that he's an opportunistic politician who has softened his position on ethanol when in Iowa and abortion when facing a re-election race in 2014."
In addition, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walker told a Wisconsin newspaper back in 2013 that strengthening border security was unnecessary.
"You hear some people talk about border security and a wall and all that," Walker said. "To me, I don't know that you need any of that if you had a better, saner way to let people into the country in the first place."
Epstein reported that Walker has publicly spoken out in favor of overhauling immigration laws for more than a decade.