Immigration reform has been on the national agenda for more than ten years, and it is a paramount issue for millions of voters. On Tuesday, a question was finally asked of both presidential candidates about their views on this defining issue of our time. The discussion was too brief and frankly raised more questions than answers.
American voters deserve to hear a more thorough discussion of each candidate's views, and tonight's foreign policy debate is a perfectly appropriate opportunity for President Obama and Mr. Romney to debate the issue further. While the impact of failed US immigration policy is felt most strongly at the community level and must be resolved by a domestic policy agenda that provides equality for this generation's immigrants, immigration itself is a quintessential transnational issue that can rightly also be discussed within the context of US foreign policy.
Last Tuesday's superficial exchange about immigration included two revelations that both candidates- and the press- should follow-up on:
First, while much of the post-debate analysis chose Mitt Romney's repetition of his miserable 'self-deportation' position in their coverage of the debate, he also made news by promising to achieve comprehensive immigration reform in his first year of office. While Romney appears to have made a deal with the Devil during the primary by pandering to extreme nativists within his party at the coaching of his advisor, SB1070 author Kris Kobach, he showed signs of flip flopping on Tuesday. Perhaps overshadowed by his offensive language, Mitt Romney got the last word on comprehensive immigration reform by blurting out: "I'll get it done. I'll get it done. First year..."
Mitt Romney should be asked for details about his promise for comprehensive immigration reform, and his plan should be thoroughly debated.
Second, as the President sough to differentiate himself, he strayed from the facts of how his policies are being implemented by his Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. President Obama's claim that he is prioritizing the removal of serious criminals is demonstrably false, and follow-up questions are warranted. If his claim were true, civil rights leaders like Jose Ucelo, the father of a baby boy in California who was arrested after his employer filed a false police report instead of paying him his wages, would not be in deportation proceedings today. The truth is that the President did more than just break his promise to achieve immigration reform. His Secure Communities policy is contributing to the criminalization of immigrants and the Arizonification of America. His unprecedented record of approximately 1.5 million deportations should not be masked by conjured images of "gang bangers" or immigrant boogeymen, nor should it be excused by the recent announcement of temporary relief for Dreamers.
President Obama should be asked to clearly explain the difference between his own policies and those of Arizona's. Specifically, he should be asked to explain the difference between the Secure Communities program and the remaining provisions of SB 1070 that just went into effect.
The country, and its millions of affected families, deserves both clarity and the truth from an immigration debate set on drastically different terms. Because as it stands, if one is to look at Romney’s rhetoric and the President’s current record there is a danger of forming a bi-partisan consensus on making immigrants' lives miserable that our communities will not tolerate. We need answers and tonight's debate is the perfect forum to give them.