Candidates Skirt Immigration
Browsing through the campaign web sites of President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, it’s easy to see where the candidates stand on front-burner issues such as the economy and taxes. The issue of immigration, however, is nowhere to be found on their home pages.
That’s despite the fact that U.S. immigration policies are intricately connected with the country’s economy. From the Midwest to New England, U.S. farmers increasingly depend on foreign workers to fill jobs many Americans no longer want. High-tech companies are clamoring to hire more workers educated in the critical areas of science, technology and mathematics.
Yet, the candidates continue to walk a fine line between courting the vote of immigrants and ignoring the issue of immigration altogether. In nearly four years, critics say, the closest the president has come to promoting immigration reform is the recent U.S. policy change allowing certain young immigrants who were brought here illegally as children to remain in the country for up to two years.
Romney has largely remained silent on whether he would reverse the policy if elected, but one of his key advisers recently filed litigation to challenge it.
Try as they might to avoid the issue it has hit home for both candidates. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had to explain during the GOP presidential debates why he continued to employ a landscaping company to manicure his lawn after the Boston Globe reported some of the workers lacked legal papers.
Obama, on the other hand, was embarrassed by reports that an uncle who was ordered deported years ago had been arrested for drunken driving in Framingham. An aunt of the president also was found to be living in Boston after her asylum bid was rejected and she was ordered deported.
Although Obama stated her fate was up to immigration authorities, her ability to avoid deportation based on a claim she would be persecuted in Kenya drew protests from that country and suspicion from other immigrants who were not so lucky.
The candidates may have good reason to skirt the issue. Whenever there is an economic downturn, resentment builds against immigrants. That’s because of the perception that newcomers are stealing scarce jobs. Indeed, Obama’s immigration policy page on his campaign site lists securing the country’s borders above all other ideas in his vision for the future.
The reality is not so black and white. One 2010 study found that, in the short term, more immigrants in the workforce can lead to a dip in some job opportunities for natives. In the long run, however, the same study found that immigrants have a positive impact on the economy in terms of increased productivity and business expansion.
For now, at least, employers and workers are left to work their way through the complex maze of immigration laws or to ignore them at their own risk. Among those calling for the president and his challenger to address this elephant in the country’s living room is billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As related by The Atlantic, Bloomberg believes that the current immigrations laws are strangling opportunity and thwarting new businesses from springing up here.
It remains to be seen whether either presidential candidate will really address the issue. In the meantime, those who need help wending their way through the thicket of immigration law can feel free to call this office for a consultation.