New Giuliani Flip-Flop: Immigration

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 12:06 PM EDT

This one's a doozy, maybe bigger than his flip-flops on the flat tax and on abortion.

Here's what Giuliani said in a 1996 speech at Harvard:

We're never, ever going to be able to totally control immigration to a country that is as large as ours, that has borders that are as diverse as the borders of the United States, and as a society that wants to be a country that values freedom -- that values freedom of movement, freedom to do business.

See video at TPM's Election Central. This is part of Giuliani's formerly understanding view of immigration and immigrants: Giuliani's New York gave many of the same benefits to citizens and illegal immigrants; Giuliani took strong measures to educate the children of illegal immigrants; he fought to keep illegal immigrants from being turned in by employers. Of conservativism's hardline anti-immigrant forces, Giuliani has said, "the anti-immigration movement now sweeping the country is no different than earlier anti-immigration movements that have surfaced periodically in American history. We need only look back at the 'Chinese Exclusionary Act' or especially at the 'Know-nothing' movement that swept America in the mid-19th century."

Kind of a good dude, right? Unfortunately, all this contrasts with Giuliani's views today. In a recent speech in South Carolina, Giuliani contradicted the Harvard speech, saying, "We can end illegal immigration. I promise you we can end illegal immigration." The former mayor now advocates building a physical fence between the U.S. and Mexico.

Willing to forgive what appears to be a simple change of heart? I understand. I wouldn't slam the man if he said, "I've seen new evidence since '96, illegal immigration has gotten much worse, we need to do something." But Giuliani's rhetoric on immigration these days is so extreme and xenophobic that the man deserves no harbor. Giuliani's plan, according to his own press release, includes a "tamper-proof Secure Authorized Foreign Entry Card (SAFE Card) for all foreign workers and students, a single national database of non-citizens to track their status, and tracking those who leave the country. In addition, Giuliani will encourage Americanization by requiring immigrants to truly read, write and speak English."

He wants a database of all foreigners in the United States! And he wants to somehow force-teach them all English! He is the Know-nothing he once derided!

This is a very different Rudy Giuliani than the one from ten years ago. Running for president will do that to a man.