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Huckabee ties Pakistan, immigration

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy and NBC's Ben Weltman

PELLA, Iowa -- Huckabee was at it again today trying to bring home the immigration issue to Iowa caucus-goers. At a Pizza Ranch here this morning, he told an audience of more than 250 people, "In light of what happened in Pakistan yesterday it's interesting that there were more Pakistanis who illegally crossed the border than of any other nationality except for those immediately south of our border -- 660 last year."

Afterwards at a media avail, he was asked where he had gotten his numbers. Huckabee replied, "It's come largely from CIA numbers, and I'll get you the exact source but those are numbers that I got today from a briefing and I believe they are CIA and/or immigration numbers."

What strikes us most is his attempt to connect Pakistani illegal immigration in the United States to Benazir Bhutto's assasination yesterday. "And so the way it affects that is that we need to understand that violence and terror is significant when it happens in Pakistan, it's more significant if it could happen in our own cities, and it happens if people can slip across our border and we have no control over them."

But his rhetoric on the stump this morning and last night was much more pointed then when he was faced with a barrage of questions from the traveling press on why he had singled out Pakistani immigrants in particular.

"My point once again is to highlight that the lack of security on our borders poses a potential threat to us," Huckabee said, seeming to retreat from the issue of ballooning Pakistani immigrants to the issue of border security in general. "I'm making the observation that we have more Pakistani illegals coming across our border than all other nationalities except those immediately south of the border. And in light of what's happening in Pakistan it ought to give us pause as to why are so many illegals coming across these borders."

Huckabee was sure to define exactly which immigrants he's fearful of saying, "the Immigration issue is not so much about people coming in to pick lettuce or make beds. It's about people who could come with a shoulder fired missile and could do serious damage and harm to us."

On the issue of Pakistani stability in general, Huckabee said that Musharraf stepping down -- as Bill Richardson has called for -- would be the "wrong decision," and that if January's elections go on as scheduled in spite of Bhutto's death and Nawaz Sharif's boycott they will be "virtually meaningless."