The Questions You Won’t Hear (But Should!)

Published on September 25th, 2008

It’s time for immigration details in the presidential debates
By Mark Cromer
September 25, 2008

Whenever it is that Senators Barack Obama and John McCain take the stage for the first presidential debate, the two candidates will certainly focus on the electorate’s palpable fear over the teetering economy.

As such, it’s unlikely that either candidate will have to field a series of serious questions about the issue of immigration into the United States, but sometime during the three scheduled debates (in actuality they are heavily rehearsed joint appearances where both men will stick doggedly to scripted message points while waiting for a chance to use ‘gotcha’ one-liners), the now invisible issue of immigration must make more than a passing appearance.

Tough, fundamental questions surrounding the surging population growth of the United States, growth that’s fueled almost exclusively by immigration and births-to-immigrants, should be asked of the candidates.

The moderators might start with this one: Just whose interests is the United States immigration system designed to serve primarily? The immigrants? Business? Or the American people? If the answer is all three; then explain just how the American people’s interests are being served by this system. How are the American people benefiting?

There are few if any keystone issues that now confront the American people that are not directly rooted in our domestic population growth; and indirectly related to the global expansion of humankind. In the economic sector; a scarcity of jobs and greater competition among a growing pool of unemployed—combined with increasing downward pressure on wages—challenge the arguments that unrestrained immigration has been both beneficial and necessary for our nation’s success.

In foreign affairs, as America’s treasury-busting global war on terror enters its eighth year, our southern border has collapsed into violent chaos and remains open to virtually anyone determined to cross it; be they job-seekers, drug mules or Al-Qaeda operatives. The United States continues to admit approximately a million immigrants legally each year from around the globe—the largest number of immigrants accepted by any nation on the planet, but a mere fraction of the people who seek to come to America in hope of a better life.

And perhaps the fact that hundreds of millions of people want to immigrate to America is at the root of the question of just whose interest should the U.S. immigration system be geared to primarily benefit.

Can the United States today continue to accept the record number of immigrants that so desperately want to come here; and yet still offer some glimpse of the American Dream to its own struggling citizens? It’s high time for some frank talk about the huddled masses around the globe that are indeed yearning to breathe free and what we can realistically do to help them.

Both McCain and Obama should be asked to rise above breezy platitudes about America being “a nation of immigrants” long enough to articulate their long-term strategic vision for population growth in respect to our vital natural resources, most critically water.

America sprang from 200 million people to 300 million people in just 40 years, and we’re now on track to hit the half-billion mark by mid-century; a massive increase in the population of the U.S. that will bear down on virtually every aspect of its citizens lives; from housing and healthcare to energy, education and employment.

What do the candidates have to say about this? In their view, is America simply meant to absorb immigrants from around the globe irrespective of the prevailing conditions for Americans? Is our heritage as a nation of immigrants some binding contract that we are compelled to honor until the country is, quite literally, full?

A majority of Americans believe that the United States must stop illegal immigration as well as reduce and restrict legal immigration in order for the country to figuratively catch its breath and adjust for those we’ve already legally admitted.

As the economic health of working Americans grows more tenuous and as their access to opportunities that were promised to them generations ago continue to shrink in front of their eyes, John McCain and Barack Obama should indeed be thankful if they are asked these questions during the debates.

Because whichever one of them wins in November, they’d better have some answers.

Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (www.capsweb.org).

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