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MIRA Blog

MIRA advocates for the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees. In partnership with its members, MIRA advances this mission through policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, and strategic communications.

The Other Elephant in the Room: Immigration and the Debates

With the first debate focusing on domestic topics and the third debate covering foreign policy issues extensively, only the second meeting between the Presidential candidates provided insight into either’s plan for immigration reform.

With the first debate focusing on domestic topics and the third debate covering foreign policy issues extensively, only the second meeting between the Presidential candidates provided insight into either’s plan for immigration reform. Although President Obama and Governor Romney squared off on a variety of immigration topics, from the DREAM act to the E-Verify system, flaws in their statistics and facts went unquestioned.

Early on, Romney argued that undocumented immigrants should not be granted amnesty because “there are four million people who are waiting to get here legally.” Creating a moving image for prospective voters, Romney has repeatedly thrown around this idea of some sort of physical line that immigrants must wait in to immigrate legally. The “line” that Romney so often refers to cannot be likened to the line at your local DMV or Starbucks; undocumented immigrants cannot be compared to those who prefer to “cut the line” rather than wait. The issues lies in that the legal immigration process is lengthy and complicated, burdened by narrowly defined applicant criteria that determine the speed and ease in which each individual can enter the United States. Throughout his campaign, Governor Romney has repeatedly called for a “streamlining” of the U.S.’s immigration process, but during the second debate failed to provide voters with any reasonable solution to his ever-growing “line”. Between Romney’s lack of comprehensive plan for immigration reform and his continuing support for a “self deportation” policy, undocumented immigrants within the United States will be continually forced to the fringes of society, doing little to improve their current situation or our nation’s policies on immigration.

At first glance, Obama might seem as much of a friend to immigrants as Romney seems an enemy.  What Obama failed to mention in the debates, however, was that while he might have proposed the DREAM act, he also oversaw an unprecedented number of deportations throughout his presidency.  In 2011 alone, nearly 400,000 deportations were recorded, surpassing the previous record in 2009, also set during the Obama administration. The president is quick to question his opponent’s proposal of “self-deportation” when, in retrospect, his own commitment to deportation has been rather forceful. Adding insult to injury, many of those deported do not hold criminal records, which obviously conflicts with his statement that,” if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families, and that’s what we’ve done.”

If the second debate clarified anything about our candidates, it is that when pressed about issues in our nation’s immigrant communities, both Romney and Obama are likely to present immigration reform on an idealistic pedestal that echoes their respective political parties’ ideologies rather than the truth, which is what the public, and our nation’s immigrant communities, really need.

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