Policy Primer: Immigration


Adam Schasel, Staff Reporter

Although the 2012 Election is just a week away, many students find themselves asking “Why should I care?”  The Red Ledger has been profiling a hot-button issue featured this election season every week, and provide each candidate’s stance on that issue, background context and how it could apply to you.


In the post- 9/11 era, immigration (both legal and illegal), primarily from Latin America, has become one of the most important and divisive issues facing our nation. Although the United States has a historical reputation of being a cultural melting pot, many Americans feel it is now necessary to tighten our borders in order to boost not just our economic safety, but our personal security as well. This isn’t just a superfluous claim, either.  Violence is prevalent along the southwestern border, especially on the Mexican side.  But there are still plenty of Americans who feel that the United States has an economic incentive and a moral imperative to open our borders to those seeking job opportunities in the country and that there needs to be an easier method to obtain legal status.


A report from the 2010 Census reports that between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population accounted for more than half the growth of the total population in the United States.  This has made Hispanics one of the most powerful voting blocs in the country and a bloc that primarily votes Democratic (a notable exception would be George W. Bush, who had above-average support from the Latino community).


Republicans in general focus more on border security and bringing in high-skilled individuals, while Democrats tend to want more pathways to citizenship for both skilled and unskilled immigrants.


This depends on your viewpoint. In addition to safety concerns and complaints about a drain on our government benefits system, it is argued that immigrants take American jobs. This is true: immigrants come both legally and illegally by and large to find work in the United States. Naturally, they take jobs that could, theoretically, go to native U.S. citizens.

But there’s more to the picture. Most of these jobs are unskilled, menial positions; in other words, jobs that teenagers would normally take.

A 2007 report by the Bush administration actually found that immigrants in the workforce, both skilled and unskilled, are an economic benefit to the average American by boosting innovation and raising domestic productivity and income.


For Mitt Romney, “self-deportation” is the name of the game. In other words, he favors a system where illegal immigrants would be unable to find jobs and will voluntarily choose to leave the United States and go home.

But how does he plan to prevent illegal immigrants from finding work? The answer: E-Verify. Romney proposes instituting a nation-wide internet-based verification system of monitoring who has legal clearance to work in the United States and who doesn’t. By forcing employers to use the E-Verify system, illegal immigrants would be prevented from obtaining jobs.

At the same time, Romney says he will allow highly-skilled illegal immigrants to obtain legal status, while trying to attract more into the country. His campaign website says that he will be advocate for any foreign-born student that earns an advanced degree in science, math, or engineering to stay in the country.  In addition Romney intends to increase the number of visas given to those with a high-skill level in certain fields.


In 2008, then-candidate Obama campaigned on the promise that within the first year he was in office, he would have a comprehensive immigration reform bill that he would advocate for extensively. Yet here we are four years later and no immigration legislation has been passed by the administration.

But that doesn’t mean the Obama administration has ignored the Hispanic demographic that helped put him into office. The Obama administration actively supported the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants who enrolled in college or joined the military.  When the bill failed to pass through Congress, the president issued a statement that his administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and have no criminal history, providing temporary relief for many undocumented students.

That being said, the administration is not content with the amount of progress that has been achieved so far.  In an interview with the Des Moines Register, the president detailed that he would make DREAM Act-like immigration reform one of the more prominent pieces of legislation that he would work on during a second term.

Want to learn more about this topic or have an opinion? Let us know in the comments!