We have another post on this topic, but this New York Times article is essential reading for anyone who wants to get a full handle on Rudy Giuliani’s evolving statements about immigration.

Some highlights:

“In contrast to his years as mayor, when he fought federal efforts to curtail public hospital or educational services to illegal immigrants, he now talks of penalties for people here illegally and requirements for them to wait at the back of the line. And while he once pushed policies like providing schooling for the children of illegal immigrants by saying, “The reality is that they are here, and they’re going to remain here,” now he emphasizes denying amnesty.

“For now, Mr. Giuliani is relying on his reputation as a law-and-order mayor to convince voters that he will crack down on illegal immigration. He also sprinkles his comments with nods to his past statements, saying he would welcome immigrants willing to learn the language, respect the culture and follow the law.

“As he campaigned across the country in recent weeks, Mr. Giuliani, whose grandparents came from Italy, never brought up the subject of immigration unprompted, but voters have kept the issue before him.

“When Mr. Giuliani was asked to clarify his views on immigration at the town meeting, he emphasized enforcing the law but stayed away from any kind of blanket condemnation of illegal immigrants.

“Mr. Giuliani’s approach is similar to the one proposed by President Bush, advocating an orderly flow of immigrants by providing a clear path to citizenship and thereby easing the pressure at the border.

“Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Giuliani emphasizes the need for tough border controls. He said he wanted to help those who are already in America become citizens, but he is quick to highlight that he is not in favor of amnesty, which leading Republican candidates dare not endorse.”

“In Mr. Giuliani’s case, his aides acknowledged that most voters do not know how aggressive he was as mayor in pressing for ways to allow more immigrants into the country.

“As other anti-immigration movements spread across the country in 1990s, Mr. Giuliani consistently pushed back. “The anti-immigration issue that’s now sweeping the country in my view is no different than the movements that swept the country in the past,” he said in 1996. “You look back at the Chinese Exclusionary Act, or the Know-Nothing movement — these were movements that encouraged Americans to fear foreigners, to fear something that is different, and to stop immigration.”

These days, when he says he opposes amnesty, Mr. Giuliani says he does not mean that the millions of people here illegally should be deported, but rather, that they should have to earn their citizenship and that nothing should be accorded automatically.”

Unlike his positions on gun control, which have changed significantly since the mid-1990s, it appears that Giuliani is advocating much the same platform as he did a decade ago, albeit with starkly different framing and rhetoric. He opposes deportation but is unclear on exactly what “enforcing the law” means or how he would ensure that all immigrants learn English and “respect the culture.”

Given his past aggressive support for making New York an ‘asylum city,’ Giuliani may face difficulties winning over immigration restrictionists in either party. His vision of what the Times calls an “orderly flow” is unlikely to assuage those who fear Hispanization of American culture from large numbers of immigrants with high birth-rates, and he has not explained how he can keep employers from displacing Americans from their jobs with cheaper, more vulnerable foreign workers. As Giuliani’s leading place in the polls may depend on many prospective voters’ ignorance regarding his record, there will surely be much to say on this over the next several months.