We're sure you've felt the heat around immigration—it's been one of the hottest social and political topics forever—or at least it feels like it.
So, in honor of the fact that we are exactly one year out from the 2012 Presidential elections we decided to decifer exactly where the candidates stand on the issue—beginning with President Barack Obama’s position.
1. La Promesa: While a candidate for President, Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) within his first year in office. That didn’t happen, in part because he used his political capital to pass healthcare and financial regulation reform, as well as inheriting the worse economy since the Great Depression.
2. Whole Enchilada: President Obama insists he needs support from Republicans to pass CIR which would legalize the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants after paying fines and learning English; penalize businesses that hire undocumented workers; and going forward, privileging those with college degrees or those who come to invest in or start businesses.
3. Arizona, Georgia, Alabama?: These states have passed ultra restrictive immigration laws, with other proposals winding their way through statehouses nationwide, that are designed to force illegal immigrants out by criminalizing virtually every act like renting an apartment. Supporters claim that without adequate funding from Washington, local governments are being financially crushed. The Obama Administration has sued to block enforcement.
4. DREAM ACT: The President has voiced support for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act which would grant residency to college-bound students or military service members who were brought to this country illegally as children. Obama’s insistence that Congress pass this proposed legislation (requiring Republican votes) and not become law through an executive order has infuriated DREAMers (undocumented students who risk or are in the process of being deported) and advocates such as Illinois Democratic Representative Luis Gutiérrez.
5. Secure Communities: Secure Communities or (SCOMM) is a controversial program of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which oversees the Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) agency. SCOMM requires local law enforcement to share fingerprints of detained illegal immigrants with the feds to better identify and deport violent felons or repeat border crossers.
6. Not Optional: When Democratic state governors like Illinois’ Pat Quinn, Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick, and New York’s Andrew Cuomo opted out of SCOMM on grounds that it made their communities “less secure” because victims wouldn’t report crimes for fear of being deported, DHS said, not so fast. The agency declared the program to not be voluntary and is moving toward implementing the program in every state by 2013.
7. SCOMM Fixer Upper: The intense backlash from community advocates, businesses, and governors because too many non-violent illegal immigrants were being processed for deportation prompted the Administration this summer to dial this program back—way back. Effective immediately, federal and local police are being trained to not process “minor” offenders and if they are, their deportation is supposed to be indefinitely delayed.
8. Border Security by the Numbers: When the President addressed immigration in a key speech in El Paso, Texas this past spring, 649 miles out of 652 of fencing mandated by Congress had been built; there were 20,745 Border Patrol agents nationwide in comparison to 17,499 in 2008; deportations of felons increased 70%, and those of “non-criminals” decreased.
9. Talking Out of Both Sides of His Mouth: With the President amping up deportations, many Latinos feel he is speaking one way to them and in another fashion to the rest of America: blaming obstructionist Republicans for refusing to partner to pass CIR, then talking tough, especially to non-Hispanic audiences, on enforcement.
10. Immigration and Latina Voters: A straw poll conducted by the civil rights organization the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) at their 2011 annual convention revealed that 45% of attendees surveyed consider immigration a top issue affecting Latinos, in large part because the xenophobic tenor of the debate negatively impacts us all–legal, illegal, sixth generation New Mexican. But Hispanic voters are not a “one trick” pony and care about jobs, education, and health care.