The politics of immigration reform

Current immigration reform plans are far from long-term solutions or being passed.

by Nasser Mussa

As the first presidential debate opened last week with domestic policies, specific issues involving immigration still need to be debated, though they may appear in the latter of the presidential oratory events focusing on domestic and foreign policy.

Throughout the course of their campaigns, President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised comprehensive immigration reform and reanalyzing U.S.-Mexico border security. Both candidates view the issue differently, specifically about what comprises comprehensive immigration reform, including the path to citizenship and dealing with the children of undocumented immigrants, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was recently passed. The DACA program provides a temporary relief for one of our pressing immigration issues, helping young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and finished high school or are currently enrolled in college. The Latino community largely embraced the legislation, though many Republicans suggested that Obama was politically motivated in addressing the immigration issue in this manner during the late-election season.  

Nevertheless, the discussion on undocumented immigrants is not a new talking point in American politics; it has become part of the national debate for countless elections in recent memory. Despite this, it appears to be far from being solved as both parties largely neglect the issue once they no longer have to make campaign promises. In the election of 1980, Ronald Reagan grappled with the question of whether the U.S. should allow the children of undocumented immigrants to be in public schools. Although this question was asked more than thirty years ago, it has never been fully answered by Republicans or Democrats to this day. During the primary election in 2012, the immigration topic was nearly turned into a joke among Republican presidential candidates such as Herman Cain who joked about building an electric fence to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s clear that the immigration issue as politicians know it has been about rhetoric, not about permanent solutions that many Americans hope for and many young immigrants need.