2012 – The Issues – Romney, Obama Differ on Immigration Policy

by Patricia Zapor

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The vastly different approaches of Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on immigration share a common denominator: Both men agree that Obama didn’t accomplish what he intended to when he was elected in 2008, when he promised that comprehensive immigration reform was high on his agenda.

As Obama put it in a forum on the Spanish-language network Univision, his priority after taking office had to be getting an economic slide under control, and that when he could turn to immigration, support he counted on in Congress had evaporated.

“I am the head of the executive branch,” Obama said, “I’m not the head of the legislature.” He said he was naive about expecting continued support from Republicans who previously backed comprehensive reform, making it impossible to get a super-majority of 60 votes needed in the Senate to move legislation.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, who has made immigration reform the focus of his work in retirement, described both Romney and Obama as “totally vague” in explaining how they will tackle immigration.

“Both candidates for president and their respective parties have waffled and drifted on what actual steps they would take if elected president,” said Cardinal Mahony. “It would be really helpful for all of us if during one of the upcoming debates the candidates would be challenged to state clearly three or four elements they believe are essential in future immigration legislation.”

“The presidential candidates need to give leadership on this issue, and they need to explain more fully to the American people how they value our immigrant history, the presence of immigrants in our midst today, and how to bring millions of people out of the shadows of our society,” the cardinal said.

Obama and Romney have pointedly wooed Latino voters at various events such as the conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Each has Spanish-language campaign materials and promises to fix what both say is a broken immigration system. But the details of how they would do that are a little harder to find, and they define the goals quite differently.

Both candidates’ websites emphasize a range of issues on their Spanish-language pages: the economy, jobs, education and immigration. Romney’s English-language pages include immigration among the topics covered. The section is short and not particularly specific.

Obama’s site includes immigration as a key individual theme only on the Spanish section. It takes searching through the English page to come up with a lengthy list of links to various articles that define his immigration positions and actions.

In Romney’s appearance on Univision, his talking points on immigration primarily criticized Obama for not doing more, without saying what he’d do differently. Romney promises “a national immigration strategy that bolsters the U.S. economy, ensures our security, keeps nuclear families together, addresses the problem of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner, and carries on America’s tradition as a nation of legal immigrants.”

Romney talks about making it easier for people with advanced degrees to immigrate and making “the system for bringing in temporary agricultural workers and other seasonal workers functional for both employers and immigrants.”

The Romney page says he will “take a strong stand against illegal immigration” and that he “believes that illegal immigration must end and has a proven track record of advancing that goal.” There is no explanation of what that “track record” entails.

Romney has said he opposes the DREAM Act, which would give a path to legal status for undocumented young people who arrived in the U.S. as children. He also has praised Arizona’s S.B. 1070 immigration law ­– much of which was overturned by the Supreme Court in June – describing it as a model for the nations.

Obama’s campaign site emphasizes his support for the DREAM Act; his creation of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; stepped-up deportations of immigrants with criminal records; and efforts to get a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform law.