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.

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