Deportations have increased under the Obama Administration and a former immigrant sympathetic Romney seems to be increasingly drifting outside the mainstream. Perhaps this is an effort to appeal to the establishment or a more conservative base. Politics aside, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and see if we can decipher immigration policies of the candidates and how that might impact immigration law.
Obama Immigration Policy
Obama’s campaign website does not address immigration, so this took a bit more digging.
Past voting record as U.S. Senator
Surprisingly, Obama voted yes on the Secure Fence Act. The Act approved a $1.2 billion 700-mile-long fence along the U.S./Mexico border.
He voted to allow undocumented people to participate in Social Security.
He sponsored a bill to provide fair prevailing wage to guest workers.
Obama voted yes on a bill restricting commercial trucks from Mexico to certain commercial only zones. (Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008)
He voted for a failed comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 1639). The bill would have introduced guest-worker-visa and path-to-citizenship programs for illegal immigrants already residing in the country, as well as increased border security.
Obama supported a bill (Senate Amendment 1183) that sought to reclassify spouses and minor children of legal immigrants as immediate relatives, giving them legal status in the U.S. Under current U.S. immigration law, spouses and minor children are immediate relatives only of U.S. citizens.
Voted to support continuing federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Record in office
No comprehensive reform
As part of his 2008 campaign platform, Obama promised to crackdown on illegal immigration, secure the borders, and to comprehensively reform the immigration system. During Obama’s time in office there have been no major amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (Note: the last major revision was in 1996).
Deportations have soared during Obama’s presidency. For example, in FY 2011, a record number of people – nearly 400,00 were deported. Last summer, Obama did take some action, by deciding to review 300,000 low-priority deportation cases. At the end of 2011, deportations drastically decreased.
2012 Campaign policies on immigration
Though Obama has not had a positive record on immigration during his presidency, in a speech given to Univision in Colombia on April 14, 2012, he pledged to tackle immigration reform if elected to another term. He said that the issue was “personal” to him . Obama expressed frustration with a Republican Congress with their boots in the cement. He was hopeful that the election would usher in a Congress that would be more willing to work with him.
Border fence: Against this
DREAM ACT : Supports
Romney Immigration Policy
Romney’s campaign website says that our immigration system is “broken”. Overall, Romney’s plan is to promote legal immigration for cherry-picked people who share American ideals and will benefit our economy. He wants to keep “illegal aliens” out by erected a “high tech” fence, crackdown on employers and get rid of amnesty. Now, let’s break this down. What does this really mean?
2012 Campaign policies on immigration
Romney has a very unclear record on immigration and flip-flopping views during the campaign. In fact, as of a few days ago, the RNC said that Romney was “still deciding” on immigration policy, but from past statements we can infer the following:
AZ immigration law- The only thing clear about Romney’s record is that he endorsed Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070, a law allowing random document checks and detainment. He called it a “model” for enforcing immigration law.
Border Fence- Romney wants to build a 2,600 mile fence along the U.S./ Mexico border that is monitored by armed guards.
DREAM ACT- Romney opposes the DREAM Act. He opposes free tuition or amnesty.
Education- Does not want to allow educational benefits for undocumented persons. This walks a fine line with Plyler v. Doe, where the Supreme Court struck down a financing scheme to children of undocumented immigrants that denied them education. The court never explicitly held that there is a right to education under the Constitution, but it very likely that completely denying education to undocumented persons would violate equal protection.
Romney opposes scholarships for undocumented students. He also opposes in-state tuition.
Romney does, however, support encouraging application for and increasing the number of visas for immigrations with advanced degrees in the STEM fields.
Though Romney does not want to permit education for undocumented persons, he is fine with allowing people to die fighting for our country. For Romney, legal status would be available for border crossers who serve in our military.
Romney wants to make English the official language.
He wants to speed up the deportation process to within 90 days.
He wants to get rid of “chain migration” or the ability of one immigrant to bring their families over. This would erode a system that is already in place.
No driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
Obama has had a negative record in office on immigration. Deportations have dramatically increased. I am hopeful, though, that once the election is over and if Obama is elected for a new term, he will be able to buckle down and follow through on his first term campaign promises to reform the immigration system. It is convoluted, backlogged, unfair and illogical; it needs a major overhaul. Last year’s order to focus enforcement on criminals and his largely positive past voting records makes it likely that he is moving in that direction. With the hubbub of mud slinging campaign tactics and media frenzy behind him, and hopefully a more cooperative Congress, his chances of following through in the second term are much higher.