December 10, 2007, 8:07 am
The Early Word: Republicans Soften Tough Talk
By Ariel Alexovich

Careful to avoid alienating their audience, Republican presidential candidates kept the immigration policy talk light during yesterday’s Spanish-language debate broadcast on Univision.
The debate hosts at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., asked questions in Spanish, which were translated into English. The presidential hopefuls’ replies were simultaneously translated into Spanish. The Miami Herald’s Beth Reinhard and Laura Figueroa write that the candidates shelved their usual immigration tough talk for something more polite, if not evasive.

Mike Huckabee, the one-time underdog rising in the polls, even struck a sympathetic note.
‘’When people come to this country, they shouldn’t fear,'’ the former governor of Arkansas said. “They shouldn’t live in hiding. They ought to have their heads up.'’
Huckabee didn’t mention his plan released two days ago, which calls for deporting undocumented immigrants who don’t return to their home country, fining employers who hire them, and building a fence along the Mexican border by 2010.
Unlike past debates, no candidate yesterday promoted himself as the toughest on immigration, although USA Today’s David Jackson reports that most of the candidates spoke out on the importance of tightening America’s borders.
Sen. John McCain, who supported an unsuccessful, bipartisan immigration plan earlier this year, struck a somewhat different note. McCain also pledged to secure the border, but said the immigration issue needs to be treated “with compassion and love.