Wisconsin's Walker denies changing stance on illegal immigrants

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(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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