DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Ohio Gov. John Kasich says it's not practical or humane to deport the millions of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
"I'm not for putting them on a school bus, driving them to the border, opening the door and just telling them to get out," Kasich told reporters.
The governor was on his first trip to early-voting Iowa as a potential Republican presidential candidate, and tried to draw distinctions with his would-be rivals on immigration and more. He favors fines for those here illegally but said Republicans need to show more compassion toward immigrants and minorities, as well as more sensitivity on the environment.
Plain-spoken, but with deadpan wit, Kasich drew applause and timely laughs from an audience of about 200 during a question-and-answer session in Des Moines.
"People are looking for someone to really speak plainly and openly to them," said Iowa state Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, who said she is considering supporting Kasich, among others, in the Iowa caucuses in February.
Kasich also said he is open to sending U.S. fighting forces into direct combat in Iraq against the Islamic State group, which has overtaken cities that U.S. troops fought to seize from insurgents after the 2003 U.S.-led Iraq invasion.
"We should have a coalition and, if we have to, put boots on the ground and start destroying these people," Kasich later told a group of about 50 Republican professionals in Des Moines. "I think we have to be careful about where we go. But when we go, we have to mean business."
Among other GOP presidential prospects, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have called for sending combat troops to Iraq.
Kasich says he'll decide soon whether to enter the 2016 race. Three other governors and four ex-governors either have joined the contest or are expected to soon.
Among them, Kasich also has extensive experience in Congress, with 18 years in the House, including time on the Armed Services Committee. He argues that background gives him an expertise few in the field share.