Election 2012 – Obama and Romney on Immigration

Republicans and Democrats are fighting for votes in the face of the upcoming election and one of the issues at hand is immigration. Both sides argue that they are the best solution for immigration, but the attitudes and proposed changes offered by Mitt Romney and Barack Obama could not be more different.

Immigration is not a new issue – it is as old as the country itself, since the US has been built on immigrant labor and immigrant settlers. In the past fifty years, many of the immigrants in the US have been arriving from Mexico and from South and Central America, and these immigrants have stirred some controversy since some of them have not been entering the US legally. Two decades ago, it was estimated that here 3.4 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Today, the estimates are 11.2 million. Although experts estimate that the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country has slowed and that there are as many leaving as entering the country, the issue of undocumented immigration remains a hot-button topic.

President Obama has admitted that the US immigration system is broken but has opposed laws such as the controversial Arizona immigration law, stating that such legislation oversteps the boundaries of what states can do. According to president Obama, a “national conversation” is needed to find solutions for immigration reform. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has stated that the federal immigration system does not work, which is why state laws such as the Arizona legislation have developed.

When it comes to illegal immigrants, President Obama and Mitt Romney also have very different views. President Obama has always supported the DREAM Act, which would  have given some undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Although the legislation failed to pass, he did create an executive order which would defer deportation for an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants. However, under his administration, there has also been a historic number of deportations as well. Mitt Romney has stated that he supports so-called “self deportation” which involves removing benefits for undocumented immigrants so that they choose to leave the country.  He does not support the DREAM Act as it is currently drafted.

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney agree that legal immigration for highly skilled immigrants needs to be made more accessible in order to ensure that the US has the skilled workforce it needs to stay competitive. Both have stated that they would like to get green cards for those who get US degrees, but such measures would need to pass Congress. Both candidates support E-Verify, although president Obama sees the program as voluntary while Mitt Romney would like to make it mandatory. Both have suggested that reforms need to be made for visas for seasonal and agricultural workers, as these workers are needed for the US economy.