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Has Rep. Mike Pence Found Middle Ground on Immigration Reform?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 13, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: So, it looks like putting the National Guard at the border is helping. According to officials, detentions along the U.S.-Mexican border fell 21 percent in the first 10 days of June from a year ago.

That was a plan that Indiana Congressman Mike Pence supported. And he’s a pretty hot topic of conversation in Washington right now on this immigration issue, and all because he just might have found a middle ground that unites those opposed to giving illegals amnesty and those equally opposed to treating them like criminals.

With us now, the man behind the leave-and-comeback legal strategy, Rep. Mike Pence.

Congressman, good to have you.

REP. MIKE PENCE R-IND: Thanks for having me on.

CAVUTO: How does your plan work?

PENCE: Well, it’s a very simple plan. We embrace, in what’s come to be known as the Pence Plan, a comprehensive immigration reform that begins with what we passed in the House — strong border security. In fact, my bill is nothing but border security and reinforcement for the first two years of implementation.

Secondly, we do all the tough employer sanctions that also passed the House of Representatives last year. Then, after we do those things, we reject amnesty but we create a new no-amnesty guest-worker program that uses the private sector to create new Ellis Island centers just outside the country, so that people who are here illegally or people outside the country that want to work on a two-year work visa can come, get a background check, get an employment opportunity confirmed, and a health screening, and be able to come into the country legally. It requires people who are here illegally to leave the country to apply for a visa. And that’s why it’s — it truly is a no-amnesty guest-worker program.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Congressman, with all good intentions, isn’t this like stealth amnesty?

PENCE: Well, it’s just not.

You know, the law makes distinctions all the time on the basis of geography. It is my view that the Senate passed an amnesty bill, because, well even though they don’t call it that — the Senate passed legislation that allows people to pay a fine, pay back taxes, otherwise, a series of penalties. But the bottom line is, they can stay in this country and get their status corrected. They can get right with the law inside the United States. That demands, as a matter of law, that they be granted some form of amnesty. Under my proposal, we simply require people to leave the country and apply for the legal right to enter our country from outside the United States. That, in and of itself, the fact that people are applying to come into our country from outside, means that amnesty is truly not a factor.

CAVUTO: So, how do we resolve this?

Many people talk about yours being the real middle ground on this. The president, as you know, sir, indicates that his is. But we’re never going to be in a position of saying to millions who are here illegally, ship them back, as some of your more conservative House members say. That’s just not going to happen, right? Or is it?

PENCE: Well, you know, I think even some of the strongest supporters of the House bill will openly say that they don’t advocate mass deportation. But I want to identify with something you just said. You know, the president called for a rational middle ground between mass deportation and amnesty. The only problem is, he then endorsed the amnesty bill of the Senate as that middle ground. What we think is the middle ground is border security, tough employer sanctions, and then creating a new system. Again, don’t miss this point. We want to use the private sector, the people that run that credit card, or the people that place millions of Americans in jobs every year, to run these privately-run Ellis Island centers outside the United States.

CAVUTO: But, you know, maybe the president’s approach, though, was and is right. If it means these Guard troops are out there, and then the number of people hopping over the fence or whatever, the border, is down — and down dramatically — maybe his approach is the one that’s working.

PENCE: Well look, there is no question that the 6,000 National Guard troops on the border are having an impact. I welcome that. We could use more help down along the border. We have got to secure our border. I said many times a nation without borders is not a nation.But I simply believe that the overwhelming majority of the 10 to 12 million people who have come here illegally would really jump at the chance to get right with the law, to make a trip home, and go to a privately-run Ellis Island center for the opportunity to submit to a background check and be issued a biometric visa...

CAVUTO: OK.

PENCE: ...that would allow them to come into our country. It’s a...

CAVUTO: All right.

PENCE: It truly is a no-amnesty proposal. And I hope as many of your viewers as possible will check out my Web site and read all about it.

CAVUTO: We will, Congressman. Thank you very much for joining us.

PENCE: Thank you, Neil.

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