The founder of the Minuteman Project says his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is a conditional one – based on a tough understanding of the former governor’s “Secure America Plan” to oust all illegal aliens, or put them behind bars.

Jim Gilchrist at Laredo, Texas, rally (WND)

“Huckabee’s plan would force all illegal immigrants to leave the United States within 120 days, or be arrested,” Jim Gilchrist told WND in an exclusive interview.

When asked why he thought illegal immigrants would voluntarily deport themselves, as Huckabee’s plan requires, Gilchrist said, “If you start arresting illegal aliens and start take away all their social welfare benefits, the illegal aliens won’t have a choice except to leave.”

Gilchrist further indicated illegals under Huckabee’s proposal may have to wait years before they were allowed to re-enter.

“The illegal immigrants will not be allowed back into the United States until they are legally allowed re-entry,” he said, “even if that takes years.”

“Nothing I can find in Huckabee’s plan indicates he is going to let the illegal immigrants back into the country the next day after they go home,” Gilchrist continued. “The illegal aliens, once they are back home, will have to stand in line with everybody else and apply for legal entry at the end of the line.”

However, when pressed on how he’d react if Huckabee’s plan turned out to provide for quick re-entry, Gilchrist ceased his praise.

“If, in fact, there is no standing in line and waiting for legal entry, I would have a serious reservation about endorsing Huckabee,” he said.

WND questioned Gilchrist how Huckabee’s “Secure America Plan” differed from the suggestion Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., had advanced unsuccessfully during the 109th Congress, requiring illegal aliens to repatriate with so-called “Ellis Island Centers” before applying for legal immigration to the United States.

Pence, in an op-ed piece archived on his House website, distinguishes that his original suggestion was not designed to be a gimmick.

“The purpose of requiring illegal immigrants to leave the country to get right with the law is not simply to do a quick ‘touchback,'” Pence wrote. “That is a gimmick. The purpose of leaving the country to get right with the law is to require people to apply for the legal right to enter the United Sates in the same way all other visa applicants apply to come into the United States.”

Gilchrist acknowledged there were similarities between Huckabee’s plan and Pence’s proposal.

“Still, Huckabee’s plan doesn’t mention ‘touch-back,'” Gilchrist insisted, “nor does Huckabee mention the Pence bill when advancing his own plan.”

Huckabee’s “Secure America Plan” as specified on his campaign website provides a 120-day window for all illegal immigrants to register with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and leave the country.

Those who register and return to their home country would face no penalty if they later apply to immigrate or visit.

The plan further specifies that illegal immigrants who do not return home will, when caught, be barred from future re-entry for a period of ten years.

“The Huckabee plan has a 120-day window for all illegal aliens to turn themselves in and repatriate to their homeland,” Gilchrist affirmed. “If that is not done, when they are caught and apprehended, they will be forcibly returned to their homelands and they will sacrifice for 10 years any possibility of coming to the United States for any reason.”

As WND reported last week, Gilchrist’s surprise endorsement of Huckabee drew fire from a divided border enforcement movement, with many insisting Gilchrist spoke only for himself, not for the Minuteman movement.

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