What We Haven’t Heard Yet

Published on October 21st, 2008

Four debates and not a single question—or answer—on immigration

By Mark Cromer

The three presidential debates and single vice presidential debate are now behind us and yet after nearly eight cumulative hours of the candidates regurgitating the sound bites they’ve honed (or dulled) on the stump, the nation has heard nary a word on immigration or the challenges it poses to our nation’s future.

As they enter the home stretch of campaigning, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain undoubtedly hope to escape any serious questions on immigration, anything that would force them to address it beyond soundbites geared to their audience of the moment.

Both men surely breathed a sigh of relief last week when the final debate ended and the elephant in America’s living room had yet again gone unmentioned.

CBS news veteran Bob Schieffer followed the template set by PBS’s Jim Lehrer and Gwen Ifill and NBC’s Tom Brokaw and allowed the candidates to avoid even a single tough question about America’s immigration policy, a subject that both senators are loathe to take on in front of 70 million viewers of all political and ethnic stripes.

It was a disgraceful journalistic failure that bodes ill for the nation.

Immigration permeates virtually every marquee domestic problem facing the country today: healthcare, education, jobs and the environment; and it also factors into issues of national security and foreign policy. Given the size of the foreign born population in the United States today—more than 40 million—it’s difficult to imagine any policy initiative being successful that did not first address the fundamentals of immigration.

The candidates have talked about the financial crisis, spending as much time attempting to affix blame as they did trying to convince voters they were the guy with the best plan to get the country back into solvency and renewed prosperity. They’ve talked about earmarks and deficit spending. They’ve talked about job losses and their plans to create new jobs.

And yet they have said nothing about the millions of foreign laborers illegally in the United States today that have driven millions of Americans out of a wide range of employment sectors while suppressing wages for citizens still working in those industries. They have said nothing about the billions of dollars in tax revenues lost to this mammoth scam of the underground economy; or of the billions of dollars citizens pay to subsidize it.

McCain and Obama have talked with ease about greedy corporate villains, such as the executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Bros. and AIG; but have kept mum on the conniving suits that ran Howard Industries in Mississippi or Micro Solutions Enterprises in California, hi-tech firms that were raided by the feds this year for employing nearly a thousand illegal immigrants between them in their manufacturing plants.

The candidates have talked about the dramatic decline in the quality of public education in America today, and argued over charter schools, teacher accountability and the merit of increasing funding for a failing system.

But they have said nothing about the catastrophic impact that mass illegal immigration has wrought across thousands of public schools in the American southwest, where school districts have been forced to cope with violently overcrowded campuses and parents have watched as classrooms turn into bilingual education labs at the expense of their own children’s learning.

Both senators have talked studiously about the critical challenges we face in the environment, but have spoken not a word about America’s surging population growth—fueled almost entirely by immigration and births to immigrants—and the impacts that growth has on our vital resources, particularly fresh water supplies.

For either candidate to claim now that they support reducing consumption without also voicing support for an end to our surging population growth shows they are simply being intellectually dishonest; like a doctor encouraging radiation therapy for a lung and liver cancer patient while declining to forcefully recommend that his patient stop smoking and quit drinking.

Some may claim that since there isn’t much daylight between the two candidates on the issue of immigration that a detailed discussion of this topic wouldn’t amount to much, but I suspect the opposite is true.

McCain was the co-architect of the “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation that would have resulted in the single largest mass amnesty for illegal immigrants in the history of nations—and Obama supported it.

But the American people clearly and decisively rejected it in 2006 and 2007; and there is little indication that they’re in the mood for it now.

So in this time of national crisis, when economic peril looms large, both candidates should be asked pointed questions on their intention to reshape America’s immigration policy.

Just several months ago, both Obama and McCain addressed the National Council of La Raza’s annual conference in California, where both men vowed to make sweeping changes to United States policy that would increase the flow of immigration.

They should now be required to answer a key question: is that still their plan?

The issue that the two candidates were most reluctant to talk about is, in fact, the one they should be grilled on most aggressively. The question for every informed voter must now be: What are they afraid to tell us?

Mark Cromer is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.

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