ABC News' Ed O'Keefe Reports: Squaring off in a Florida debate, Republican contenders came out swinging on the controversial issue of immigration.
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"The reality is that New York City was not a sanctuary city," former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R-N.Y., said in response to a question posed by Ernie Nardi of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York, during the CNN/YouTube debate.
Former Governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., quickly took issue with Giuliani's contention.
"(New York) called itself a sanctuary city. And as a matter of fact, when the welfare reform act that President Clinton brought forward said that they were going to end the sanctuary policy of New York City, the mayor actually brought a suit to maintain its sanctuary city status," romney contended.
Things got ugly from there.
"It's unfortunate, but Mitt generally criticizes people in a situation in which he's had far the -- worst record ... there was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed, not being turned into anybody or by anyone."
Romney shot back, "I think it is really kind of offensive actually to suggest, to say look, you know what, if you are a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home -- paint the home, put on the roof. If you hear someone that is working out there, not that you have employed, but that the company has."
Later in the debate, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo, who has centered his campaign on the issue of immigration, got in the act saying he was happy the discussion began on his central topic.
"They're trying to out Tancredo, Tancredo," the Congressman said with a laugh on an otherwise heated Republican debate stage.JOIN THE DEBATE WITH ABC NEWS' RICK KLEIN LIVE BLOGGING AT THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE NOWAnd you can read the latest from the campaign trail every morning in the The Note.