Immigration Irritation of Presidential Candidates


This primary season, the Republican presidential nominees have been especially critical on current immigration policies, culminating in former presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s call for a deadly twenty-foot high electric fence to be built along the Mexican border.

Now that Cain is out of the race, Rick Santorum is probably the toughest on immigration.  He supports building a wall along the Mexican border although he has also voiced tentative support for a guest worker program.

Ron Paul is also a strong opponent of immigration. Although he criticized deportation in his recently published book “Liberty Defined” and does not support a wall at the border, Paul has argued that the children of immigrants born in the United States should not automatically receive American citizenship. Paul has argued that parents should instead become citizens first for their children to become eligible for citizenship.

During the primaries Newt Gingrich’s rhetoric has probably been the friendliest voice of all the candidates towards immigrants.

“No serious citizen who’s concerned about solving this problem should get trapped into a yes/no answer in which you’re either for totally selling out protecting America or you’re for totally kicking out 20 million people in a heartless way. There are humane, practical steps to solve this problem, if we can get the politicians and the news media to just deal with it honestly,” said Gingrich, speaking on what Romney aides have painted as “amnesty.”

After the debate, Gingrich aide Kiron Skinner stated that using “the a-word was a rhetorical slant made by the Romney campaign.”

Prior to the primaries, Mitt Romney also had a fairly moderate record on immigration. A state health care bill, which he helped pass when he was governor of Massachusetts, provided a safety net whereby illegal immigrants were entitled to health care.  But since the primaries, Romney’s stance on illegal immigration has become harsher.  He has said that if he were elected president he would complete a security wall along the Mexican border, although he has backed off from this kind of rhetoric since the Jan. 31 Florida primary.

As of last year, the Obama administration held the record for detaining and deporting the most immigrants out of any other administration. However, the White House has changed its tune on immigration in what some perceive as a technique to attract Latino voters during an election. Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced that Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be adopting a priority system in which illegal immigrants who are otherwise law abiding are left alone. But illegal immigrants who are found to be breaking the law are deported.  Republican lawmakers say this policy is not strict enough and amounts to amnesty.

Additionally, President Obama appointed Andrew Lorenz-Strait on Feb. 7 as the new public advocate in charge of legally representing immigrants and their interests.  Mr. Lorenz-Strait is the first to hold this position and the creation of this position has attracted a lot of criticism.

This action led Republican lawmakers to further criticize the president, accusing him of pandering to Hispanic voters in an election year. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said, “President Obama refuses to enforce immigration law, sues the states that do so and now he’s appointed a czar for illegal immigrants. The president is making a conscious decision to evade Congress in order to appease his base.”



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