Romney, Obama conflict on immigration policy


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Because the economy holds out as the topmost concern among voters in 2012, immigration policy finds itself in a relative abyss — untouched and not talked about enough. While 87 percent of registered voters rate the economy as “very important,” only 41 percent rank immigration at the same level of importance, according to the Pew Research Center.

But the economy and immigration affect each other directly, as immigrants both positively and negatively affect the national economy, and the growth of our economy affects the rate of immigration. Although around 12 million immigrants have come to the United States from Mexico alone over the past four decades, with an estimated 6 million of those immigrants arriving illegally, immigration from our southern border has slowed with the recession.

The economy will eventually recover, and issues such as immigration will need to be addressed. The next presidential administration needs a proactive immigration plan ready to be executed immediately after taking the oath of office. We, as the electorate, need to prod each candidate for answers on the untouched issues, specifically their respective immigration policies.

Both former Gov. Mitt Romney and President Obama call the current immigration system broken, but their political similarities on the issue stop there.

Romney called for “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants, proposing a plan calling on illegal immigrants to voluntarily return to their home countries once their ability to find a job dries up. The Republican candidate has scaled back on the self-deportation rhetoric recently and focused on a vague plan that includes the familiar “secure-the-borders” platitudes along with an enactment of an employment verification system and abolishing any so called magnets for illegal immigration, such as amnesty.

Likewise, Romney does not support Obama’s order to defer deportation of children who would qualify under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which allows illegal immigrants brought to the country as minors to obtain citizenship through either higher education or military service. Instead, Romney’s plan calls for military service as the only route to citizenship for these children and opposes any route to citizenship for illegal adults already in the country.

Obama’s time behind the presidential seal shows his administration is not soft on illegal immigration. Around 366,292 illegal immigrants were deported so far this year under the Obama administration compared to 291,060 under former President Bush in 2007. At the same time, however, Obama has pushed for the DREAM Act. The passage of the DREAM Act would result in $329 billion in added economic activity by 2030, according to a study released by the Center for American Progress.
While the act failed to pass the Senate in 2010, Obama maintains his commitment to the bill.

“These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag,” said Obama in the White House Rose Garden in June. “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

Calling for a sensible solution to the immigration problem, Obama’s policy plan includes stemming the flow of illegal immigration but also creating a path toward citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country through background checks, penalty payments, and English-language proficiency.

It is clear that Obama’s immigration policy is better for what voters care about most this election. Instead of closing off a path to recovery, Iowans should open a viable door to immigrants, legal or otherwise.

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