Wisconsin's Walker denies changing stance on illegal immigrants

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Wisconsin's Walker denies changing stance on illegal immigrants
FILE - In this June 5, 2012 file photo Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker reacts at his victory party in Waukesha, Wis., after winning a recall election. A person close to a secret investigation of Walker’s campaign and other conservative groups said Wednesday, May 28, 2014 that the governor's attorney is discussing a possible settlement with the lead investigator that would end the probe. The probe focused on alleged illegal campaign fundraising, spending and coordination between conservative groups, Walker's campaign and others during recall elections in both 2011 and 2012. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, left, listens as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, right, speaks during a news conference at the Republican Governors Association's quarterly meeting on Wednesday May 21, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, talks to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker with one of her grandsons during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, right, puts on his Harley Davidson jacket over his Brewers jersey during the opening session of the National Governors Association 2013 Winter Meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, while NGA Vice Chairman Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, left, watches. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
FILE - In this May 3, 2014 file photo, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican party of Wisconsin State Convention in Milwaukee. Gov. Walker emerged with a major victory this week when a federal court halted a secret investigation into his 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups that supported him, ruling the probe was a breach of free-speech rights. The decision could boost his re-election campaign and better his prospects for a possible 2016 presidential run. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers at the state Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Madison, Wis. Walker made the case in his State of the State speech Wednesday that extra money collected thanks to an improving national economy should be returned as property and income tax cuts, even as some Republicans are saying his proposal goes too far. (AP Photo/Andy Manis) 
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks at his victory party Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Waukesha, Wis. Walker defeated Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

(Reuters) -- Likely 2016 Republican U.S. presidential hopeful Scott Walker's stance on illegal immigrants remains unchanged, his spokeswoman said on Thursday, disputing a report that he favored letting them stay in the country and eventually become eligible for citizenship.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswomen for the Wisconsin governor, labeled as "erroneous" a Wall Street Journal report detailing what the newspaper called Walker's shift in stance on the matter.

"Governor Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed," Kukowski said in an emailed statement.

"His position has not changed, he does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants, and this story line is false," Kukowski added.

The newspaper reported that Walker made his remarks on March 13 at a private dinner for Republicans in New Hampshire, which holds a key early contest on the road to the Republican presidential nomination.

At the event, Walker said illegal immigrants should not be deported but rather should be permitted to "eventually get their citizenship without being given preferential treatment" over others already in line to try to get citizenship, the Journal reported.

"We strongly dispute this account," Kukowski said.

Many Republicans have sharply criticized Democratic President Barack Obama's executive actions to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

The Journal said the governor's remarks were confirmed by three people present at the event.

"He said no to citizenship now, but later they could get it," Bill Greiner, an owner of the restaurant where the event was held, told the Journal.

The newspaper quoted another attendee, Mayor Ken Merrifield of Franklin, New Hampshire, as saying that Walker proposed that illegal immigrants should "get to the back of the line for citizenship" but not be deported.

The Journal reported that Walker's comments were at odds with his call in recent weeks for "no amnesty" for illegal immigrants and statements he made just a day later in New Hampshire.

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