McCain, Obama, and Immigration

There has been a lot to say, and a lot of mud-slinging, over various issues in the current US presidential election. I hope to find the time to talk about some of them here; already I have touched on McCain’s 1985 meeting with Pinochet, women’s issues, and McCain’s health care plan. Today, let’s talk about immigration.

McCain was an early bipartisan champion of immigration and even introduced legislation with his 2007 immigration bill that would have created a temporary worker program and tightened boarder security. Because of this, he has received endorsement from Latino Singers like Daddy Yankee. He has also aired Spanish language attack ads featuring this information and portraying Obama as the man who stopped the bill.

The facts are, McCain decided not to support his own bill. He stopped talking about immigration as an issue of his until he had gained the presidential nomination and now only appears to do so while speaking with Hispanic voters. His own website, which does not have an issue piece on “immigration” but rather lumps immigration under “border security”, states:

John McCain’s top immigration priority is to finish securing our borders in an expedited manner.”

Wants to create software that will identify “bad employers” and “will use this new system in conjunction with other Department of Homeland Security resources to identify and aggressively prosecute employers that continue to hire illegal immigrants.”

“Implement a usable, market based system for low-skilled workers to enter the United States in an orderly fashion.”

“Ensure high skilled workers trained and educated in the United States have the opportunity to stay and work in the United States upon graduation.”

The program will also ensure that all undocumented aliens either leave or follow the path to legal residence. America cannot permit a permanent category of individuals that do not have recognized status”

Pretty much, from reading his position paper, these were the 5 main concepts. The first one is in line with the creating of a wall. How does he propose to adequately secure our border. Are we really building a fence between us and Mexico? Should we just let the bounty hunters and coyotes run free? I didn’t see any really plan. If we do not address the economic disparity and the difficulty of safely obtaining a work visa, then people will continue to cross our border patrols and the risk of being murdered. They will continue even if they have to climb a fence.

While I understand the desire to target bad employers who hire illegal workers, I wonder if this is really the best use of our homeland security resources. I will remind people that we have no cases of terrorists entering the US through the Mexican border illegally. Recent terrorists have been home grown or they have entered through legal visas (student, work, tourist or others).

A market-based system for low-skilled workers is what we currently have. The market does not want to pay a living wage or grant benefits; therefore, the market has chosen to hire illegals who are easier to exploit. In a similar way, a guest worker program has people coming to work during the months that work is most readily available. Then, it sends the workers home. What happens to the families with these moves? The children? Many poor immigrants come to this country so that they can send money home to support families– this money needs to be sent year round. Additionally, those who travel with children are often willing to take jobs well below their skill level, leaving their dignity at the door, so that their children can obtain a better education, learn English, and have a higher chance of success. These families are going to overstay their visa is a guest worker program. They do not want to try and create two homes and be shuffled back and forth. Some people will say that they don’t have a right to be here– these people are technically right. The way the immigration system is set up now only people who are highly educated and recruited, those with family ties, or victims of atrocities have a chance of obtaining a visa.

Finally, if a foreigner comes over to the US and gets a good degree. This person, already under the current system, has the right to stay for one year post graduation to seek gainful employment in their field.  If they get that job, then after their year visa is up, the employer can apply for a job sponsored visa for the individual.  Many of my colleagues in my master program have taken this route and are currently receiving visas to stay and work in the US.  His plan, in this respect, presents absolutely nothing new.

Barack Obama said:

“The time to fix our broken immigration system is now… We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace… But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America… Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should”

— Barack Obama, Statement on U.S. Senate Floor, May 23, 2007

Here is his plan, at a glance, per his website:

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