Brad Little plans to vote for Donald Trump, but his take on immigration and refugee resettlement differ a bit from the Republican nominee's.
The state doesn't have direct control over either immigration policy or refugee resettlement; policies on both are set by the federal government, and courts have long recognized federal primacy over states in these areas. However, both are certainly important and sometimes controversial issues in Idaho and in this area, in particular. Twin Falls is one of the state's refugee resettlement hubs and the area is also home to a sizable non-refugee immigrant population, particularly Mexicans.
Little, a Republican who is Idaho's lieutenant governor now and is so far the only declared candidate for governor in 2018, told the Times-News editorial board he favors increasing border security, and changes such as enhancing extradition agreements and doing a better job of targeting ties between Mexican drug gangs and the illegal drug trade. But he is skeptical of Trump's signature proposal to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it. Little said he once tried to calculate how many tunnels you could dig with the difference between two months' wages in Mexico versus Idaho.
"These things are never as easy as they look at first blush," Little said.
Little said he liked some aspects of the immigration reform compromise Congress considered a few years ago, such as the proposals that would identify undocumented immigrants and bring them out of the shadows, but he said any immigration reform would have to be crafted in a way that wouldn’t create an incentive for more illegal immigration. He views mass deportation of undocumented immigrants as a non-starter.
"I don't think it's going to happen," he said. "I can see the first 20 news stories of mothers being separated from their babies and ... I don't think it's going to happen. But you have to have a program that doesn't look like it's a temporary program, where the next generation comes in."
As for refugee resettlement, Little said the federal government needs to be vigilant about security.
“There are people who want to come into this country on suicide missions,” he said. “And that’s a whole new aspect of it. And our … most important job is to keep everybody safe.”
But, Little said, he opposes ending the refugee program, and views the visa system, not refugee resettlement, as a far greater vulnerability.
“That’s where the risk is,” he said. “And if we’re over here worrying about this refugee program, where these people are vetted and monitored and watched, and we forget this great big huge problem that’s over here, we’re missing the forest for the trees."