In the Nov. 28 YouTube debate on CNN, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee misrepresented the historical record when asked if he had supported as Arkansas governor a program for granting in-state college tuition scholarships for illegal aliens.

A YouTube viewer asked Huckabee a question that began, “Governor Huckabee, while governor of Arkansas, you gave illegal aliens a discount for college in Arkansas by allowing them to pay lower in-state tuition rates.”

In Huckabee’s answer, I have identified five specific, easily documented misrepresentations of historical facts.

Huckabee began his response by telling the questioner, “Ashley, first of all, let me just express that you are a little misinformed. We never passed a bill that gave special privileges to the children of illegals to go to college.”

In the next paragraph, Huckabee misrepresented the program the first time, identified here by italics.

First, he claimed he supported a bill “that would’ve allowed those children who had been in our schools their entire school life the opportunity to have the same scholarship that their peers had, who had also gone to high school with them and sat in the same classrooms.”

The bill in question was the Access to Postsecondary Education Act of 2005, also known as HB 1525.

Section 1(b) of HB1525 offered state-supported tuition scholarships to illegal immigrants who attended only three years of high school in Arkansas, provided they graduated from an Arkansas high school or received a General Education Development diploma in the state, and were admitted at an Arkansas institution of higher education.

None of the provisions of the bill require the illegal immigrants to have attended Arkansas elementary or high schools for “their entire life,” as Huckabee represented in the debate.

The next paragraph of Huckabee’s YouTube debate answer contained the second misrepresentation of facts, once again emphasized here with italics.

“They couldn’t just move in during their senior year and go to college,” Huckabee continued. “It wasn’t about out-of-state tuition. It was an academic meritorious scholarship called the Academic Challenge Scholarship.”

The Arkansas Challenge Program, codified at Ark. Code Ann. Section 6-82-1001-1006 (Supp. 1991), is a totally separate law from HB 1525.

The Arkansas Challenge Program was enacted in 1991, becoming law more than four years before Huckabee began his first term as Arkansas governor in 1996.

Huckabee had nothing to do with the passage of the Arkansas Challenge Program, a law based on being an Arkansas resident that makes no mention of illegal immigrants.

Evidently, Huckabee sought to deflect attention about HB 1525 by referring to the Challenge Program, an act that was meritorious in nature.

HB 1525 made no special exemptions for illegal aliens who merited tuition preferences because of their exemplary academic performance.

In the next paragraph of his CNN debate answer, Huckabee tells the truth, noting that HB 1525 passed the Arkansas House, but failed to become law after the bill failed to pass the Arkansas Senate.

Huckabee, however, neglected to reference his State of the State Address, also archived on YouTube, in which he endorsed HB 1525, again on the false premises that the bill applied to illegal immigrants who had attended Arkansas schools for “their entire career as a student.”

If we skip a paragraph of Huckabee’s response in the debate, we come to Huckabee’s third misrepresentation, in which he identified a set of qualifications not mentioned in HB1525 that Huckabee claimed an illegal immigrant would have to meet under the bill to qualify for in-state college tuition scholarships.

The paragraph also contains the fourth misrepresentation, where Huckabee specified to be eligible an illegal alien would have to apply for citizenship.

Huckabee told the CNN debate audience, “I said that if you’d sat in our schools from the time you’re 5 or 6 years old and you had become an A-plus student, you’d completed the curriculum, you were an exceptional student, and you also had to be drug and alcohol-free – and the other provision, you had to be applying for citizenship.”

Obviously, Huckabee realized these invented qualifications would make his support of in-state college tuition scholarships for illegal immigrants appear to be more politically acceptable to opponents of illegal immigration.

The problem is none of these qualifications were specified in HB 1525, the only relevant bill here that Huckabee actually supported.

HB 1525 was not a merit bill.

Section 1(d) of HB 1525 merely required an illegal alien, to be eligible for an in-state college tuition scholarship, had to file an affidavit with the state-sponsored institution of higher education stating that the student had intent to legalize his or her immigration status.

Contrary to what Huckabee said, HB1525 required no proof a student had obtained legal status or even had applied to obtain legal status.

HB 1525 did not require proof of legal status.

Huckabee’s fifth misrepresentation came when he told the CNN debate audience, “We wanted people to be taxpayers, not tax-takers. And that’s what that provision did.”

HB 1525 had no work requirement provisions specifying an illegal immigrant who qualified for an in-state college tuition scholarship had to work in Arkansas, or anywhere else, while he or she was a college student or afterwards.

HB 1525 had no work requirements specified.

What this analysis suggests is Huckabee appears to have a facility to re-invent the past when questioned closely about a past action or statement, here his support of HB 1525.

Huckabee answers by shifting ground, mixing HB 1525 with a merit law passed before Huckabee was governor that was never designed for illegal immigrants.

Moreover, Huckabee mischaracterizes the true conditions of HB 1525 with a series of invented requirements, none of which had any factual basis in the actual language of the bill.

Huckabee’s point appears to be to engage misdirection by falsehoods designed to elicit our sympathies.

The candidate’s convenient rewriting of history sets the stage for him to argue before a national television audience, “This bill would’ve said that if you came here, not because you made the choice, but because your parents did, that we’re not going to punish a child because the parent committed a crime.”

Unfortunately, we have come to expect our politicians to lie.

Still, when re-inventing the past becomes a ready facility of a candidate never before scrutinized at the presidential level, the charge becomes particularly important.

How can we allow a man who represents himself to Christian conservatives as a Baptist preacher to run for president on a self-styled myth of his political history?

If Huckabee feels no personal responsibility to recall his political history accurately, we as an electorate must be doubly vigilant, determined to make sure no Huckabee slip goes by unnoticed.

This is especially critical when we realize the YouTube questioner had not asked Huckabee to justify his position supporting preferential in-state tuition colleges for illegal immigrants as such, but to explain why Huckabee had neglected to argue the provisions of HB 1525 should apply to the children of U.S. military as well.

Huckabee got to this, but only at the end, when he claimed, “And that’s why I proposed a veterans bill of rights that, if anything, would give our veterans the most exceptional privileges of all, because they are the ones who have earned all of our freedom – every single one of them.”

Remarkably, even though Huckabee exceeded his allotted time, he still failed to answer the question, never explaining why he supported HB 1525 for illegal immigrants only, and not for the children of U.S. military as well.

Note: The question and answer exchange during the YouTube/CNN debate can be seen online.

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