Fri, Nov 30, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Immigration tops agenda for Republican candidates

AP , ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

Republican presidential rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney scornfully debated immigration in a provocative, no-holds-barred CNN-YouTube debate just over a month before the first votes are cast.

Giuliani, the front-runner in national polls, accused Romney of employing illegal immigrants at his home and running a "sanctuary mansion." The testy personal exchange during the debate on Wednesday night came after Romney said Giuliani had retained New York's status as a sanctuary city while he was mayor.

Romney said it would "not be American" to check the papers of workers employed by a contractor simply because they have a "funny accent." He had landscapers at his Belmont, Massachusetts, home who turned out to be in the country illegally.

Giuliani shot back, calling Romney's attitude "holier than thou."

"Mitt usually criticizes people when he usually has the far worse record," Giuliani said.

The audience, however, booed Giuliani as he tried to persist in his criticism of Romney.

The confrontation came at the start of an innovative CNN-YouTube debate that forced the candidates to confront immigration immediately, signaling the volatility of the issue among Republican voters. The eight Republican candidates encountered a range of questions, including abortion, gun control from a gun wielding NRA member and farm subsidies from a man eating an ear of corn.

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