2012 Presidential Candidates on Immigration Issues
With the 2012 presidential election just a little more than six months away, immigration issues are far from forgotten. But where do the current candidates stand on immigration?
Although Democrats and Republicans agree that reform is needed in the immigration system, the candidates diverge on whether to offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship or deportation. Here’s a primer on the thoughts of President Barack Obama, Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney and fellow Republican candidates Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
Obama has been very active in securing the US borders. He has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents on the southern border and has installed more than 600 miles of fence. Obama has greatly increased the number of deportations of illegal immigrants, but prioritizing those with criminal records.
A supporter of the DREAM Act, Obama supports a path to legalization for the illegal immigrants already in the country. He supports an improved visa system that provides new visas to foreign investors, and allowing farms to hire foreign workers.
Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department has also pursued an action against several states — Arizona, South Carolina, Utah and Alabama — for their immigration enforcement laws, claiming that the area is reserved for federal legislation.
Recently, Obama pledged to tackle immigration reform during the first year of his second term if he is re-elected. He claimed in a television interview that he could not get support thus far from Republicans in Congress to pass reform, and painted Mitt Romney as an extremist on immigration.
Mitt Romney supports a fence that covers the entire US-Mexico border. Claiming he supports legal immigration to the US, Romney supports extinguishing the “magnets of amnesty,” such as in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney vetoed a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates.
Romney supports using E-Verify as a way to deter employers from hiring illegal immigrants. He has advocated for more visas for foreign-born students in the fields of math, science, technology and engineering to bring growth and entrepreneurship to the US.
Newt Gingrich dismisses the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, instead advocating for enforcement of the immigration laws already on the books. He advocates securing the border with more border agents and intelligence-collecting drones, improving the US visa system and increasing the number of high-skilled worker visas.
He supports a legal guest worker system backed by E-Verify that enables employers to hire foreign workers legally. Gingrich has said that it would be easier to deport illegal immigrants if visas enabled foreign workers to come and go more easily. He has expressed support for a path to amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been living in the US for decades.
An advocate of civil liberties, Ron Paul supports border security but does not advocate a fence or national ID cards. He does not support granting amnesty or providing public benefits to illegal immigrants already in the US.
The Hispanic Vote
Because Hispanics are seen as an increasingly important voting bloc in presidential elections, immigration is likely to be discussed more in the coming months. Obama won a sizable majority of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 election, and he is surely hoping for similar results this election.