De ja vu all over again? The 2008 presidential contest offered voters a choice between a Democrat whose solution to the illegal immigration problem was amnesty and a Republican whose solution to the illegal immigration problem was amnesty. During last night’s GOP presidential debate, four of the candidates offered plans that sound a lot like amnesty (though, of course, the word never passed their lips).

Three of them, Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain, were asked specifically how they would deal with the millions of illegal aliens who are in the country. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Gov. Jon Huntsman raised the issue without being asked. The other three, Governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, and Rep. Ron Paul responded to a general question about immigration and did not volunteer an answer about what they would do about the existing illegal alien population.

Here in their own words are excerpts of the responses given by the candidates who were asked open-ended questions about immigration:

Gov. Rick Perry: [T]he first thing you need to do is have boots on the ground. We’ve had a request in to this administration since June — or January of 2009 for 1,000 border patrol agents or National Guard troops, and working towards 3,000 border patrol…For the President of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas, and say that the border is safer than it’s ever been, either he has some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country, or he was an abject liar to the American people. It is not safe on that border.
Gov. Mitt Romney: The reason they come in such great numbers is because we’ve left the magnet on…[W]hen employers are willing to hire people who are here illegally, that’s a magnet, and it draws them in. And we went in and talked about sanctuary cities, giving tuition breaks to the kids of illegal aliens, employers that, employers that knowingly hire people who are here illegally. Those things also have to be stopped. If we want to secure the border, we have to make sure we have a fence, technologically, determining where people are, enough agents to oversee it, and turn off that magnet. We can’t talk about amnesty, we cannot give amnesty to those who have come here illegally.
Gov. Jon Huntsman: I hope that all of us, as we deal with this immigration issue, will always see it as an issue that resolves around real human beings. Yes, they came here in an illegal fashion. And yes, they should be punished in some form or fashion.
Rep. Ron Paul: Obviously, it’s a very big problem. I think we need to remove the incentive — easy road to citizenship. Nobody has mentioned the fact that they qualify for benefits as well, you know, the welfare benefits…But every time you think about this toughness on the border and I.D. cards and real ideas, think that it’s a penalty against the American people, too.

Here in their own words are excerpts that encapsulate the views of each of the candidates who responded to a direct question, or who volunteered a view on dealing with current illegal aliens:
Question: Speaker Gingrich, your perception on immigration reform? And you’ve been, I think, in some ways, a little different on your initial positions.
Speaker Newt Gingrich: And then find a way to deal with folks who are already here, some of whom, frankly, have been here 25 years, are married with kids, live in our local neighborhood, go to our church. It’s got to be done in a much more humane way than thinking that to automatically deport millions of people.
Question: So there are 11 million people that — fait accompli. They’re here. What do you do with them if you are able to secure the border?
Sen. Rick Santorum: Well, I think we can have the discussion, that whether what we do with people, how long they’ve been here, whether they had other types of records. But to have that discussion right now and pull the same trick that was pulled in 1986 — we said, well, we’ll promise to do this if you do that — no more. We are going to secure the border first, and that’s the most important thing to do, then we’ll have the discussion afterwards.
Question: What do you do then with 11 million people, as the Speaker says, many of whom have U.S.-born children here? What do you do?
Rep. Michelle Bachmann: Well, that’s right. And again, it is sequential, and it depends upon where they live, how long they have been here, if they have a criminal record. All of those things have to be taken into place.
Herman Cain: (Responding to the same question posed to Rep. Bachmann.) [L]et’s promote the path to citizenship that’s already there. We don’t need a new one, we just need to clean up the bureaucracy that’s slowing the process down and discouraging people.

You can read the full transcript of the precise questions and responses of all of the candidates here. Also, check out YouTube for the video of the immigration portion of this debate.