Trump's Labor pick Andrew Puzder has been a big pro-immigration advocate

Trump picks fast-food CEO Andy Puzder for Labor secretary
Trump picks fast-food CEO Andy Puzder for Labor secretary

Donald Trump's choice to head the Labor Department is an outspoken immigration supporter whose views seem to clash with the president-elect.

With the announcement Thursday that Trump will nominate Andrew Puzder came speculation — and grumbling — that he would favor an open-border policy that would clash with the hard-line talk his potential boss espoused on the campaign trail.

An op-ed piece Puzder authored in The Wall Street Journal last year helped crystallize his views on the subject. He counseled Republican presidential candidates to come up with a realistic vision of how to deal with immigration, including the 11 million undocumented workers already in the country.

"The GOP needs to end the family drama and resolve the policy dispute, not least because it is the right thing to do in every sense — economically, politically and morally," he wrote.

While calling for strong borders and penalties for those entering the U.S. illegally, he also advocated for a vigorous process that does not lock out those from other parts of the world.

CKE Restaurants CEO Andrew Puzder, center, departs Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.
Andrew Harnick | AP

"The best way to protect American workers is to generate economic growth," he wrote. "This is not synonymous with aggressively restricting immigration."

Puzder supported a "path to legal status" that would be "short of citizenship" so long as the undocumented are "willing to accept responsibility for their actions and take their consequences." That path would include passing a background check, paying a fine and learning English, among other measures.

"Every option should be on the table, except amnesty, which forgives illegal conduct. It isn't amnesty if immigrants admit wrongdoing and accept punishment," he said.

'Use the labor force in California as an example'

That's not all Puzder has said on the subject.

At an American Enterprise Institute conference in 2013, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., riffed on the virtues of low-skilled immigrants and backed immigration reform.

"Our Hardee's restaurant operators in the Midwest and the Southeast often use the labor force in California as an example of what they would like their labor force to be," he said then.

"They're very hardworking, dedicated, creative people that really appreciate the fact they have a job," Puzder said. "Whereas in other parts of the country you often get people that are saying, 'I can't believe I have to work this job,' with the immigration population you always have the, 'Thank God I have this job' kind of attitude. So you end up with a real different feeling."

Puzder also questioned efforts to step up the size of the border patrol, saying the focus should be more on efforts to "spur economic growth" through a sensible "rational, enforceable, practical immigration policy."

Puzder's potential nomination drew rage from both sides of the political aisle.

Conservative flamethrower and ardent Trump supporter Ann Coulter ripped the pick as anti-American worker:

Coulter tweet

So did the liberal lion, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat:

Warren tweet

For his part, Trump promised that Puzder would fight for workers and businesses alike. At a post-election rally earlier this week, Trump himself vowed his administration will bring in "hundreds of thousands" of legal immigrants.

Puzder "will save small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages," Trump said in a statement that also noted that he and Puzder agree that "the right government policies can result in more jobs and better wages for the American worker."

In a July 2014 op-ed for CNBC, Puzder argued against a mandated minimum-wage increase on the grounds that they reduce entry-level job opportunities for young workers and minorities.