Perry, Iowa: Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, a long-shot Republican presidential contender, signed a pledge on Saturday to push for the construction of a fence along the entire length of the border with Mexico, raising the issue of illegal immigration in an Iowa town where about one-third of the residents are Hispanic.
Bachmann also renewed her attacks on the immigration policies of Governor Rick Perry of Texas, one of her rivals for the Republican nomination, and criticised President Barack Obama for what she called his failure to control the border.
"President Obama has failed the American people by failing to secure the southern border," Bachmann said. "I will secure that border and that will be job one."
Bachmann's call for increased border security was made in a town where the meat-packing industry has drawn immigrant workers. Thirty-two per cent of the town's 9,800 residents are Hispanic.
Van Hipp Junior, head of Americans for Securing Our Border, said Bachmann was the first Republican presidential hopeful to sign the pledge, but he added the group plans to aggressively seek the support of others as well. The document binds Bachmann to support the construction of a double fence along the length of the US border with Mexico by 2013.
"I have been saying this all through the campaign," Bachmann said. "Now you have my word in writing."
National security issue
She called control of the border a national security issue and said illegal immigration costs the US more than $100 billion (Dh367 billion) a year. At the same time she rejected suggestions that talking about cracking down on illegal immigrants is racist or anti-Hispanic.
"It's OK to talk about this issue," Bachmann said. "Some say it's not OK to talk about this subject because that somehow means we are prejudiced or bigoted or biased against Hispanics. That's not what I hear from the people of Iowa. They are tired of paying for other people."
Money raised in race for white house
With just over a year left in the race for the White House, campaign finance reports released on Saturday offered the first detailed look at the haves and the have-nots among the Republicans.
Two of the top Republican contenders, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas governor Rick Perry, brought in more than $14 million (Dh51.42 million) and $17 million respectively.
Meanwhile, candidates like former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain raised much less.
The financial reports show how flush some GOP candidates are with cash — and how nearly broke others are — heading into the final weeks before contests in key primary states. Reports on two of the biggest money-raisers so far — Romney and President Barack Obama — reveal millions in contributions from party devotees and small donors alike.
Reports filed on Friday offered a mixed financial picture of the field, with Obama raising more than $70 million between his campaign and the Democratic Party. At the same time, GOP candidates raised a combined $52.6 million, more than the $42 million Obama brought in through his campaign alone.