Romney, Obama differ on immigration policies


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While other issues such as health care and the economy have garnered much attention in this election cycle, several experts believe the outcome of the election will largely be influenced by the candidates’ opposing views on immigration.

President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney have different approaches to the issue, as evidenced by words exchanged during their Oct. 16 debate.

“I want our legal system to work better,” said Romney, referring to the immigration system in the United States. “I want it to be streamlined, I want it to be clearer.”

However, Romney does not want to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.

“There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally,” he said at the debate. “Those who’ve come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who’ve come here illegally.”

Obama offered a different view.

“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,” he said.

Part of Obama’s immigration platform includes support for the Development, Relief, and Education for all Alien Minors Act (or DREAM Act). The act would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants who came to the United States at the age of 15 or younger under the current draft of the bill.

Though Romney previously stated he would veto the DREAM Act, he supports some aspects of the legislation, including the provision allowing illegal immigrants who had served in the military to achieve legal status.

Pauline Taylor, a member of the Central Committee in the Johnson County Democrats, said she supported the DREAM Act.

“There should be a process available for illegal immigrants to become citizens,” she said. “Most of us started out as immigrants somewhere along our family lines, and the U.S. has traditionally extended open arms to those people.”

John Archer, the Republican candidate for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, said while he doesn’t support the DREAM Act in its current iteration, he supported reforms in immigration law and securing the U.S. border.

“I believe that we should not punish students, who through no fault of their own have committed a crime,” Archer said in a statement. “It is important that there is a comprehensive and common-sense immigration reform adopted by the federal government."

Bryan Griffith, a spokesman for the Center of Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., said a lot of unanswered questions accompany the DREAM Act.

“There are several versions out there that are causing confusion,” he said. “The assumption is that [illegal immigrants] will receive amnesty through some sort of roundabout way, but what age is the cutoff? What if they came to the U.S. before the set date?”

Jordan Moody, one of the founders of the Iowa City-based Immigrant Justice Project, said the DREAM Act offered opportunity for youth that were brought to the United States illegally.

“They didn’t make a conscious choice to break the laws of the United States,” he said in a statement.

“And I think that for our government to both create incentives for these young people to pursue education and/or military service and to offer relief for young people who may not even speak Spanish is very reasonable as a means of taking something with potentially negative consequences and turning it into something extremely positive.”

The Immigrant Justice Project aims to educate immigrants about their civil rights and options under the law, and advocates for a “more humane approach” to immigration policies and practices, providing resources to locals.

The DREAM Act has faced significant opposition in Congress, falling short of the required 60 votes to end a Senate filibuster on the bill in 2007.

UI political-science Associate Professor Rene Rocha believes the Act has been held back by Republicans in Congress.

“Republicans today have become more conservative on the topic of immigration,” he said. “A large number of Republicans refuse to support the DREAM Act; I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.”

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