NEW YORK–On Tuesday night, Carl Paladino, a Tea Party-backed millionaire from Buffalo, NY, won the Republican nomination for governor. A month ago, New York State Senator Ruben Díaz Sr., (who is also a pentecostal minister and a Democrat) invited Paladino to a breakfast with more than one hundred Hispanic ministers hailing from the five boroughs so they could get to know him better. When Díaz asked the Republicans in the room to raise their hands, only a handful of people in the audience did.
Paladino was more than an hour late–it was his first time in The Bronx, he confessed, and he got lost–but the ministers warmed to him immediately. He was charming, and he knew what to say.
“I’m the only candidate running for governor of New York who is anti- abortion.”
“Alleluia!” the ministers shouted.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman!” said Paladino.
“Amen!” responded the ministers.
But there were no amens or alleluias after Paladino’s statements about immigration reform.
“Immigration for me is coming here under our rules and earning it,” he answered when someone in the audience asked for his feelings on the issue. “For those who have come here illegally I believe we should give them a clear path to go home and to return.”
“So yes, I don’t think that we should grant amnesty, I don’t believe in that,” Paladino added.
“What about their children?” the same person asked.
“[If] they’re born here they’re American citizens. I don’t care if their parents were illegal or whatever. They are American citizens; they were born on American soil. That’s not their problem, how they’re parents got here. They’re innocents.”
After the breakfast, Paladino spoke further with reporters about what his approach to immigrants would be if elected governor of New York:
Listen to the exchange:[audio: paladino.mp3]
Catalina Jaramillo: You talked about serving all New Yorkers. But there’s a large percentage of undocumented immigrants. How are you going to serve them?
Carl Paladino: Undocumented immigrants? No, I’m not. They are not citizens of the state. They are not citizens of the state. If they are here illegally, they are here illegally, OK? And we are not servicing them. We are not letting them come out in our social services programs; we are not letting them come out in our Medicaid programs. They can go some place else and try to get in those programs in some other state. But the taxpayers of this state are not going to be servicing undocumented aliens, OK?
CJ: So you are going to send them back?
CP: If the law enforcement people apprehend an undocumented alien, they will be sent back, yes. They will be given to federal authorities for proper deportation. Because we believe in the rule of law.
Unknown Reporter: You might support something similar to Arizona?
CP: You got to understand. They are border states. They are actively pursuing people that are walking across the border every day. They have a responsibility–the federal government has a responsibility to keep those people out. And they are not doing it. So Arizona is taking out some self help. And I don’t think that’s exactly what we got going out here in New York State, but certainly we’re not going to allow undocumented aliens or illegal immigrants to take part in our social welfare and our Medicaid systems in the state of New York. Our taxpayers didn’t buy into that. You gotta come here, you have to earn it, and when you earn it you are a citizen. And when you are a citizen you’re a resident of the state of New York and you are entitled to these entitlements. Asides from that, you gotta go back to where you came from and come in on a clear path, alright, and earn it and then you are entitled to those entitlements.
CJ: Do you think it’s possible to send them all back and the cost that implies?
CP: Those are questions that are a little bit beyond comprehension at the present time. I don’t know how many they are. I don’t know what we’ve got. I don’t know the full extent of the problem, but as we get into it, as we study it, we’ll continue to refine our position on the question.
Paladino faces Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor, in the general election on Nov. 2.
Catalina Jaramillo is a reporter with El Diario. Feet in Two Worlds coverage of the New York Primary is supported, in part, by the New York Community Trust.