Illegal Immigration and the 2012 Campaign

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I wrote a piece for CNN Global Public Square entitled “Illegal Immigration and the 2012 Campaign,” which highlights the role illegal immigration plays in the 2012 U.S. presidential race. In it I discuss how the rhetoric does not always match up to current immigration realities, and how the Hispanic vote will affect the upcoming election. Here is a brief excerpt:

As the country begins to turn to the general election next November, immigration remains a difficult issue for both political parties. During the early Republican primary debates, candidates talked enthusiastically about mass deportations and expanding, doubling, and even electrifying the U.S. southern border fence to keep people out. As the field has narrowed, the leading contenders have continued with a hard-line. Romney in particular, though widely seen as a centrist candidate, has taken an unyielding stance on immigration, supporting Arizona’s and Alabama’s restrictive laws and aligning himself with their architect – well-known anti-immigrant official Kris Kobach.

The tone got so strident in the lead up to the Florida primary on January 31 that Florida Senator Marco Rubio (who many say is a potential candidate for Vice President) chastised the Republican candidates for “harsh and intolerable and inexcusable” anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The Democratic Party’s discourse has been more measured. Though all condemn illegal immigration, most speak of immigrants as “folks … just trying to earn a living and provide for their families,” no different from so many forebearers. But in concrete terms, President Obama has little to show immigrants – and more importantly Hispanic voters – from his three plus years in office.

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