TRANSCRIPT: ABC News/Facebook/WMUR Republicans Debate

... to say that they all came back: Senator McCain, Senator Thompson, Congressman Paul, Governor Romney, Governor Huckabee, Mayor Giuliani, it's good to have all of you with us.

We're going to do some more direct questions. We've got tally lights this time. We're going to limit you in the length of your answers. And if you want to respond, in these first questions, you're certainly welcome to do so.

Why don't you start, Scott?

SPRADLING: Senator McCain, good evening.

MCCAIN: Good evening, Scott.

SPRADLING: I'm struck by the fact that we're on the St. Anselm campus. And a few months, you took some hits in a debate that you had here with your fellow Republicans on the issue of illegal immigration and your views.

Since that debate...

MCCAIN: I shouldn't have come back.


SPRADLING: Since that debate, sir, you've told voters, "I hear you." You've acknowledged some of these complaints.

And there's more talk, I know, from you, about stronger borders. That's a big focus in this debate.

But fundamentally, I'm wondering, don't you still have the same plan for a path to citizenship that you fundamentally held months ago?

MCCAIN: Sure. But the fact is that the American people have lost trust and confidence in government, and we have to secure the borders first.

MCCAIN: I come from a border state. I've very aware of the challenges we face and the impact of illegal immigration. So, we will secure the borders first. As president, I will have the border state governors certify that those borders are secure.

And, of course, in the course of our debates and discussions and -- with Secretary Chertoff, he said that there's 2 million people who are in this country illegally who have committed crimes. Those people have to be deported immediately.

And I do believe we need a temporary worker program. One with an employee -- employment -- electronic employment verification system and tamper-proof biometric documents, so that the only document and that system (inaudible) can an employer legally hire somebody, and any employer who employs someone in any other way will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

MCCAIN: Now, I want to say again, this is a national security issue. We have to secure our borders.

But I want to say again, these are God's children. We have to address it in as humane and compassionate an issue as possible. But we have to respect our nation's security requirements.

So I think that it's time Republican and Democrat sat down together and resolved this issue. Because if you've got broken borders, and if you have 12 million people here illegally, then, obviously, you have de facto amnesty.

It is a federal responsibility. The federal government must act. I will act as president.

GIBSON: We got the tally lights this time.


MCCAIN: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Charlie.

GIBSON: That's all right.

ROMNEY: I disagree fundamentally with the idea that the 12 million people who've come here illegally should all be allowed to remain in the United States permanently, potentially some of them applying for citizenship and becoming citizens, others just staying permanently.

I think that is a form of amnesty, and that it's not appropriate. We're a nation of laws.


ROMNEY: Our liberty is based upon being a nation of laws. I would welcome those people to get in line with everybody else who wants to come here permanently.

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