The former congressman who led the fight to strike amnesty from the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill in 1986 and is now Florida’s attorney general says he’s supporting Rudy Giuliani for President in large part because the New York “didn’t have to be taught” on the issue of illegal immigration.
“Rudy understands the problems with illegal immigration — controlling the border first and then dealing with the illegal immigrants who are already here,” said Bill McCollum, who was elected Florida’s top law enforcement official last fall and recently signed on as Giuliani’s state chairman in the ’08 Republican presidential primary. McCollum also served in the U.S. House from 1980-2000, during which time he was ranking Republican on the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee and a key player in efforts to curb illegal immigration.
In an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS, McCollum recalled how he knew Giuliani when he was the Number Three official in the Justice Department during Ronald Reagan’s first term (“When Rudy had hair,” quipped the Floridian) and admired him then. The two kept in touch over the next twenty years and, McCollum told us, “we met to discuss his presidential campaign in March at Legends Field in Tampa, where the Yankees were having spring training. According to McCollum, the two talked for several hours on issues of concern to the Floridian — particularly foreign policy and terrorism, he said.
“If you take away the social issues, Rudy is a solid conservative,” McCollum said, “Like Ronald Reagan, he believes firmly in reducing the size of government and reducing taxes.” At their Tampa meeting, McCollum also recalled, he and Giuliani “spent about ten to fifteen minutes discussing the whole problem of immigration. It was clear he had not yet formulated his whole agenda on the issue but he understood what had to be done with the issue — security and controlling the border — and the importance of doing it first.”
McCollum volunteered that, after deciding to sign on with Giuliani’s campaign, he had telephoned Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney to tell of his decision. In his words, “I had known and liked Senator Thompson when I was in Congress and Governor Romney had sought me out for support.” One of the reasons he had decided to back Giuliani rather than Romney, McCollum said, “was that, while one can change on issues over a period of time, [Romney] had changed his positions on a number of issues recently and I was not comfortable with that.” (McCollum, however, did not mention any discomfort with Giuliani’s record on the issue as mayor of New York from 1993-2001, during which time he sued to make his city a sanctuary for illegal aliens, and, in his first bid for mayor in 1989, supported prohibiting city workers from reporting undocumented immigrants to the INS unless criminal activity was involved and continuing to make city services available to all immigrants, regardless of immigration status.)
Like Giuliani, McCollum is also opposed to the comprehensive immigration bill before the Senate that is backed by the Bush Administration and Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.). But, he noted, the measure does have “two good points in it: making the Social Security card tamper-proof as a means of identification — something I championed for years in the House — and creating a database to identify who is coming in the U.S. and know everyone here who is not a citizen. If we could pass those two things out of the bill, it would be an important step toward dealing with the illegal immigration crisis.”
McCollum has no doubts a “President Giuliani” is committed to appointing strict constructionist judges in the mold of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito. “Look, he’s going to listen to supporters such as [former U.S. Solicitor General] Ted Olson, [former California gubernatorial candidate] Bill Simon, Jr., and me on judges ,” McCollum said, “And he knows Scalia personally and always talks about Roberts and Alito.”
Most significantly, the Floridian said, “Rudy is someone who reads a lot and thinks on his own. And I like people who are going to think about things.”