Undocumented aliens brought to the United States when they were children should not be deported, but given education and employment opportunities and a way to earn their citizenship, according to U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican often criticized by opponents for his deep conservative stances.
He made the pronouncement during questions Thursday at the Polk County Tiger Bay Club in Bartow.
It was Ross’ first public speaking engagement since he announced he would not run again for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, starting a Republican primary gold rush to get on the ballot before May 4.
Democrats, who were already in the race, took the announcement opportunity to claim credit for his leaving, but Ross had been discussing the possibility of not running for well over a year.
“It’s good to be back, but when you find yourself a stranger in your hometown, it’s time to reassess our priorities,” Ross told the heavily attended luncheon.
Ross’ stand on immigration, while still maintaining his conservative credentials, flies in the face of some in the “alt-right” Freedom Caucus who have called such a plan amnesty.
“I am a little disappointed. We have to make sure those who came here of no accord of their own are treated fairly. Let them earn their way to citizenship … That’s not amnesty; it is earning their way,’’ he said.
Immigrants who have a criminal history should be deported, but there must also be a plan for guest workers, especially for agriculture and Construction in Florida, he said.
“We are talking about this growing economy. Good luck finding workers (without a guest worker program).” Ross said.
Asked what his most disappointing time in Congress and he noted that one was he has always been a conservative, “But as the standard for conservatism got stricter, I am not a part, but a am still a solid conservative.”
Ross said he wasn’t leaving because of disagreement with his party’s policies and then proceeded to prove it. He is strongly opposed to abortion and said federal grant monies given to Planned Parenthood in no way goes to abortion in the organization.
He said there should be private options for health care, praised tax cuts as growing the economy.
“It is the lowest tax rate since World War II,” he added. “And the reunification of North and South Korea is more likely than ever before.”
If there was ever a law he wished could be passed but knows it never can be it would be “a law in which you are required to practice personal responsibility, but you can’t legislate that.”
Asked to give advice to the numerous candidates in the room, Ross said beware of allowing consultants to campaign negatively. He said he did so in his first run for the Florida Legislature and lost.
“But then these elected officials (who campaign brutally) come home and have to live with that,” he said. “Our country has no one party or one philosophy. Be anchored to something other than the political arena. And don’t read press clips and believe them.”
Ross told the crowd that after Congress, he plans to return to practicing law, but is most interested in returning civics and the process of government to the classroom.