Fred Thompson, a potential Republican presidential candidate, suggested on Thursday that the 1986 immigration measure that President Ronald Reagan signed into law is to blame for illegal immigrants.
“Twelve million illegal immigrants later, we are now living in a nation that is beset by people who are suicidal maniacs and want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world,” Mr. Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee, said at the Prescott Bush Awards Dinner in Stamford, Conn. “We’re sitting here now with essentially open borders.”
Mr. Thompson, a star on the television series “Law & Order,” is widely expected to enter the race for the nomination in the summer. His supporters say he is a conservative in the mold of Reagan who can beat the Democratic nominee in 2008.
The bill that Reagan signed gave amnesty to an estimated 2.7 million illegal immigrants who had been in the United States at least four years.
Immigration has been dominating the Republican nominating contest, with candidates seeking to navigate the tricky politics of a Senate measure that many conservatives oppose. They make up a large part of the Republican base whose votes are critical in the primaries.
Three Republican candidates, Mr. Thompson, Mitt Romney and Rudolph W. Giuliani, oppose the Senate measure to varying degrees, even though all have made statements in the past that appeared to support a similar measure that the Senate had previously considered.