President Obama and Governor Romney addressed immigration in a debate setting for the first time Tuesday night. The transcript of their remarks can be found at ABC News Univision , and further coverage and commentary can be found from the New York Times, Washington Post, ImmigrationProf Blog, Colorlines, Greg Siskind, and the Huffington Post.
The National Journal reports that of all the topics hitting twitter during the debate immigration had the largest response. This is not surprising given the lack of attention the issue has gotten in the current election cycle. However, I hardly think this is surprising due to the rather sad state of the U.S. economy.
At any rate, I didn’t find anything either candidate said that surprising or compelling. Both began with the oft used “we are a nation of immigrants” and touted their desire to streamline the system, secure the border, and fix illegal immigration.
I would be impressed if either candidate presented a vision for an immigration system that is compatible with today’s global reality.
Missing from the immigration conversation is that the US is bleeding entrepreneurs due to the byzantine labyrinthine immigration system. Missing was attention paid to legal immigrants who have spent thousands of dollars on filing fees, legal fees and played the immigration waiting game for years in order to come here legally. Missing was acknowledgement that Americans do not have a desire to live in a society where we are constantly asked for our “papers.” Anyone who thinks this burden would not fall disproportionately on Latinos and other minority groups are kidding themselves – perpetual paper showing is not a hallmark of a free society. The headaches this mentality causes is on display in Georgia where residents in need of professional licenses are experiencing massive delays in renewing and obtaining new licenses due to new proof of legal presence in the U.S. requirements.
The truth is, today’s world of global mobility bears little resemblance to where we were generations ago when the basic structure of U.S. immigration law was created. We need a new, sustainable national policy now. NAFSA supports comprehensive immigration reform that is based on facts, fairness, and a shared future. True comprehensive reform must address the three pillars of border security and enforcement, broad visa reform, and resolution of undocumented persons.
I hope whoever is elected in November is able to move beyond talking points and craft a practical and just solution.