IMMIGRATION THROUGH THE EYES OF ROMNEY AND OBAMA
By: John Nicholas Mandalakas*
Recently our nation’s eyes turned to Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, where the two top presidential candidates sparred in a veritable battle of wits. The debate was held in a town hall style format with questions coming from undecided voters, and it got quite heated. Romney quotes regarding women went viral, with hundreds mocking a statement he made regarding “binder of women”. Many also disapproved on the Alpha male attitude of President Obama.
Questions covered a variety of topics including the economy, energy, and even foreign policy. Perhaps the most critical takeaway from the debate, though, was both candidates seeming failure to address immigration in a comprehensive manner. When the question was raised, the candidates engaged in a lively back and forth. Romney accused Obama of failing to do anything about immigration over the last three years. At the same time, Obama claimed Romney would repeal the DREAM act, likened his plan to the controversial Arizona SB 1070, and accused Romney of encouraging self-deportation. This is from the same person who has encouraged deportation for over 400,000 which is twice as much as ever before.
It’s hard to take what either of the candidates said seriously. Romney started out his pitch saying he wanted to “streamline” the system and then he said, “I don’t think you have to –shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally.” Perhaps just a hopeful statement, but it really illustrates how much Romney is underestimating our problem and how little understanding he has of the complexity of immigration petitions. The system is broken in more ways than just its sheer complexity.
When moderator Candy Crowley, asked Romney to address the Obama accusations about self-deportation, he skirted the topic and did not deny it. The same went for an accusation that Romney’s “top immigration adviser” was the author of the Arizona law. While Romney did not deny this, upon further investigation it seems that Kris Kobach, the author, has only been called an “informal adviser.”
Sadly with the candidates jabbing back and forth, it’s hard to get the big picture on immigration policy. Both candidates’ claim to support keeping families together, increasing border security, and creating comprehensive legislation on reform. Mitt Romney maintains that he will not allow illegal immigrants to “cut the line” through amnesty or similar programs, perhaps a hint at opposition to the DREAM act.
Governor Romney stated that we are a “nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My father was born in Mexico of American parents; Ann’s dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American.” This seems to suggest that is if you come in legally on a family or employment based visa for which you may have waited for years then you are welcome. However, if you are one of the 12 million plus illegals then you are not and you should chose to leave.
President Obama made a number of errors in his explanations that were factually incorrect. He stated in the debate, “ the first thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler and cheaper for people who are waiting in line.” Have you looked at the visa bulletin from the Department of State lately or the backlogs in Immigration court extending into 2015 for immigration hearings in this area, Mr. Obama? Clearly, he also hasn’t looked at immigration fees that constantly are increasing including HIB fees that employers must pay and the $1490.00 fee that one person pays to USCIS to get a green card based on their US citizen spouse.
While Romney claims Obama has failed at immigration, he did enact a policy earlier this year DACA which allowed youth with characteristics matching DREAM act criteria to avoid deportation. At the debate, though, Obama really pushed the envelope, saying in reference to these youth that “we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship. And that’s what I’ve done administratively.” While he has granted deferred action to these youth, the initiative does not actually grant a pathway to citizenship. In fact, it only might give to some of the applicants a work authority valid for 2 years if the can show an economic necessity. In other words, a 30 year old gainfully employed and making a good income would not qualify for the work permit.
What both Obama and Romney agreed on was that legal immigration should be simplified; that children of illegals /students should have a pathway to legal status; and that the deportation should focus more on the criminals. This is rather ironic considering that Obama has already in less than four years deported more than twice as many persons, most of which are non-criminals, just overstays in this country, than any other prior administration. To date over 420,00 persons have been physically removed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE).
The result is that at best we have a murky picture of their policies. Both candidates are vying for the Latino vote, a factor which many political analysts have said could decide the entire election. With the high importance of the vote, both candidates need to solidify their immigration experience and objectives. Sadly, with such inaccuracies riddling the public forum, we can expect that neither candidate seems to have to the necessary knowledge to truly reform our immigration system.
*John Nicholas Mandalakas is an intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.