(CNN) - Mike Huckabee appears to have combined two hot-button issues on the Iowa campaign trail: Pakistani unrest and illegal immigration.
Thursday night, the former Arkansas governor told CNN that the crisis in Pakistan wasn’t just an international concern: “Domestically, we need to protect our borders with Pakistanis coming into the country,” he said.
Friday morning, the Republican presidential candidate elaborated on the point, telling CNN’s Dana Bash that 660 Pakistanis entered the country illegally last year, more than any other nationality other than those south of the border. When asked for the source of the statistic, Huckabee appeared unsure, telling a reporter that “those are numbers that I got today from a briefing, and I believe they are CIA and immigration numbers.” The Huckabee campaign later said the figure came from a newspaper report.
The number of illegal immigrants from Pakistan deported or apprehended was 721, according to the Department of Homeland Security. In 2005, the nation did not make the list of the top 10 sources of illegal immigrants. The previous year, they were the last country listed, but no specific numbers were given.
Illegal immigration is a top concern for GOP caucus goers in Iowa, according to most recent polls.
UPDATE: A senior Huckabee campaign official tells CNN that the figure Huckabee cited - 660 illegal Pakistanis in the US - came from a March, 2006 article in the Denver Post. CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is told by a government source that if you add up the number of Pakistanis turned away at the border and apprehended, the figure is somewhere close to 660. But it is impossible to know how many entered the country undetected.
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand and Dana Bash