By Attorneys Robert Reeves and Jeremiah Johnson
These are hard times for Americans, especially for immigrants. The current financial crisis has dominated the media’s headlines and the political discourse among the presidential candidates. And yet during these hard economic times, immigrants continue to wait anxiously for some relief, holding out hope while looking to politicians to provide some much needed reform to a broken immigration system. Despite the recent relative silence from the presidential candidates, Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Barack Obama, their respective party’s platforms adopted at their national conventions say a lot. In fact, the party platforms mark a clear distinction among the candidates both in the approach to immigration and in the specific recommendation.
For Republicans, their approach to immigration policy is clear: immigration is a national security issue. Referencing terrorism, drug cartels and criminal gangs, Republicans stress the need to track persons entering and exiting the United States and that “allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks.” Republicans propose that by completing the border fence between the United States and Mexico and giving additional resources to border agents, America’s borders can be secured.
Complimenting border security, the Republican platform advocates a strict enforcement policy. Specifically, the platform calls for immigration enforcement at places of employment, including prosecution for using false security numbers; limiting the rights of aliens in deportation proceedings; tracking down aliens who overstay their visas; and denying federal funds to “sanctuary cities.” Republicans are also opposed to legalization, or “amnesty” programs; driver’s licenses for aliens; instate tuition for undocumented children; and allowing undocumented aliens to receive social security or other public benefits. The Republican Party platform is reminiscent to the hard-line, enforcement only approach taken by some members of Congress last year.
In contrast, Democrats view immigration policy as an opportunity to renew the “American Community.” Although the Democrats recognize the need to secure the borders, including additional personnel, infrastructure and technology at the borders and ports of entries, and enforce existing immigration laws, they understand the “need [for] comprehensive immigration reform, not just piecemeal efforts.” Noticeably absent from the party’s platform is reference to the controversial border fence. Rather, “comprehensive” immigration reform remains a top priority for Democrats.
Specifically, the Democrat’s plan calls for increasing family-based and employment based immigrant visas; improving the naturalization process; and addressing the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy. Moreover, the Democratic platform supports a path for undocumented immigrants to become legal permanent residents, or in their words to “get right with the law.” Indeed, Democrats “support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.”
The Presidential campaign is in full swing. Over the past year, immigrant communities have seen an increase in immigration raids yet little in the way of immigration reform. Just because the headlines are currently focused on other topics, and politicians remain silent, this does not mean immigration is not an important issue. Rather, the political parties have adopted party platforms to express their views. Republicans and Democrats take different approaches to immigration, and the outcome of the election will affect you and your family.