As many patriotic Americans hoped would happen, immigration surfaced in Debate II. I put little stock in anything either President Obama or his Republican challenger Mitt Romney promises regarding immigration legislation since anything either proposes would have to pass Congress. But Obama and Romney’s statements reflect their personal views which are starkly different.
At the outset, an audience participant named “Jeremy” outlined his all too common plight as an unemployed recent college graduate. This provided an excellent segue into immigration as a jobs issue. More specifically, Romney could have hammered at President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals that will ultimately authorize 1.8 previously unemployable (because of their immigration status) aliens to compete with Americans for jobs. Romney let this golden opportunity pass by him although he did stress throughout the debate the 23 million unemployed or underemployed Americans and the administration’s bogus September 7.8 percent unemployment rate.
Later, Romney fielded a load question from Lorraine Osario about what he would do about “immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?” Note Osario’s use of the phrase “productive members of society” to describe aliens.
Osario’s question struck me as amazing since Long Island, where the debate was held, is a hot bed of illegal immigration with many day labor centers in public view. And the Center for Immigration Studies recent report showed that a high percentage of immigrants, both legal and illegal, live in poverty and without health care. Read the report here.
Romney, for the most part, stood his ground. His answer:
“What I will do is I’ll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so. I won’t put in place magnets for people coming here illegally, so for instance, I would not give driver’s licenses to those that have come here illegally, as the — as the president would.”
I interpret this as Romney’s E-Verify endorsement and his firm commitment, reiterated a few minutes later, not to offer driver’s licenses, the DREAM Act or any other illegal immigration enticements.
Obama attacked Romney’s support for “self-deportation.” Obama’s wrong assumption is that most Americans oppose the idea that aliens living (and possibly working) illegally in the United States should be encouraged to return home. At the same time, Obama erroneously described the Arizona law as one that would allow:
“…law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and checked their papers. And you know what, if my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they’re not a citizen, I don’t want — I don’t want to empower somebody like that."
This is an outrageous misrepresentation that moderator Candy Crowley allowed to pass. In fact, immigration status can only be requested when an individual is detained under suspicion of a criminal act. By the way, polling indicates that most Americans approve of the Arizona law [SB 1070].
Romney summarized his immigration position this way:
“Number two, we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who’ve come here illegally.
On legal immigration, Obama and Romney were equally dismal. Both offered up boilerplate nonsense about attaching green cards to any Science, Technology, Engineering or Math diploma [STEM] earned by a foreign-born student, repeated the myth that more immigration leads to more American jobs and reminded the audience that America is a “nation of immigrants.”
Despite Romney’s repeated failures on legal immigration, I came away with the distinct impression that under Obama, bypassing Congress to issue more executive orders that increase immigration or benefit aliens already here is possible if not probable. Based on what Romney said during the debate, I foresee his administration taking the first steps toward immigration enforcement.
Read the debate transcript here.