Standing on the platform of his newfound popularity in national polls, Mike Huckabee released a get-tough immigration enforcement plan Friday — one that could serve to counter criticism that as governor of Arkansas he supported tuition breaks for children of undocumented residents.
Huckabee called the nine-point proposal a "tough, equitable and comprehensive approach" to immigration, which has emerged as one of the most contentious and pivotal issues in the Republican race.
The plan is similar to those put out by his GOP rivals. In it, Huckabee proposes constructing a border fence with surveillance cameras by July 1, 2010. He also suggests increasing the number of border patrol agents and imposing steep penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants.
The plan also calls for a zero-tolerance policy toward amnesty and states that all illegal immigrants would have a 120-day window to register and leave the country. Under the proposal, those who register and leave will face no penalty, while those who do not, if caught, will be barred from the United States for 10 years.
Huckabee corrected an earlier version of his policy that made reference to the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The amended plan now properly lists the agency as Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).
Huckabee's proposal quickly drew criticism from a spokesman for rival Fred Thompson, Jeff Sadosky, who said it "contradicts everything he did as governor."
He pointed out that Huckabee denounced a 2005 raid on illegal immigrants at an Arkansas poultry plant and gave $1,000 in state funds to help children whose parents were arrested.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.