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The 2008 U.S. Presidential Candidates on National Immigration Reform

Now is a time in which our country awaits much-needed immigration reform–countless immigrants within U.S. borders are uncertain of which steps to take toward citizenship, employers are concerned over their rights and obligations with respect to documentation of workers, and citizens of countries throughout the world postpone or cancel plans to work, live, or study in the U.S.—opting instead for Europe or Canada where immigration policies are more favorable.

As primaries to select party representatives for the 2008 U.S. presidential election have been held in 42 states at this article’s press time, the candidates have begun to paint a picture of their respective visions for national immigration reform.

It is vital to the health of our democracy and the future our nation that those who are eligible to vote be well-informed on the candidates’ agendas for U.S. immigration policy. If you are not certain whether you are registered to vote or whether primaries have occurred in a particular state, please contact your local city hall.

Below is a brief synopsis of the candidates’ immigration positions thus far—please educate yourself and your community and if you’re eligible, be sure to vote!

Hillary Clinton – Democratic Party 
Barack Obama – Democratic Party 
John McCain – Republican Party 
Ron Paul – Republican Party 
Mike Gravel – Democratic Party 
Ralph Nader – Green Party 

Hillary Clinton – Democratic Party

As of March 13, 2008, 1,497 delegates won (249 super delegates)

With respect to key elements of immigration reform, Hillary Clinton has stated the following: “As President, I will work to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes five key elements. I believe we have to toughen security at our borders, by placing more people and technology there. I will ensure that my policy cracks down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants and applies strict penalties for those who exploit these workers. I think that we should work with local communities to deal with the consequences of a broken immigration system. I plan to work with our neighbors to the south to find ways to provide economic opportunities for their own people. And, lastly, I will make sure that my policy provides a path to earned legalization that requires people to learn English and pay fines.”

Senator Clinton supports agricultural jobs programs, but opposes guest worker programs that can lower wages of American workers or exploit immigrants. She supports making it easier for immigrants to bring families, advocates creating a new employment eligibility verification system, and opposes driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

Voting history on immigration issues:

  • Senator Clinton co-sponsored the Legal Immigration Children’s Health Improvement Act of 2007, which would lift the current waiting period of five (5) years for federal health care benefits for legal immigrants.
  • She voted yes on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which would have created a guest worker program and addressed border security issues.
  • She also voted yes on the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which created 700 miles of new fence along the U.S./Mexico border.

Barack Obama – Democratic Party

As of March 13, 2008, 1,602 delegates won (212 super delegates)

With respect to his top three priorities on immigration, Barack Obama has stated the following: “We need to work in a bipartisan way to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. First, on security, comprehensive reform has to mean gaining operational control of our borders by using better technology, improving infrastructure, and making smart choices about where we deploy resources on the Southern and Northern borders. These actions can strengthen our security while discouraging people from taking the risk of crossing the border illegally.

Second, at the workplace, we need a simple, but mandatory electronic system that enables employers to verify the legal status of the people they hire. Third, we need to bring the 12 million undocumented people out of the shadows. We need to be realistic about the fact that they are here, we can’t deport them, and they have become an integral part of our society. We need to give this population a chance to pay a fine, to have provisional status in the country, and to get into the back of the line for citizenship.”

Senator Obama supports guest worker programs but would like immigrant workers to be less dependent on employers to stay in the country. He supports granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

Voting history on immigration issues:

  • Senator Obama co-sponsored the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2007, which would allow states to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition for higher education and let the homeland security secretary confer legal resident status on some illegal immigrant students.
  • He also co-sponsored the Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007, which would require the federal government to freeze the fee that legal immigrants pay for each application for services at current levels and called for $80 million a year to promote citizenship.
  • Like Senator Clinton, Senator Obama voted yes on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which would have created a guest worker program and addressed border security issues.
  • Also like Senator Clinton, he also voted yes on the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which created 700 miles of new fence along the U.S./Mexico border.

John McCain – Republican Party

As of March 13, 2008, 1,334 delegates won (132 unpledged delegates)

With respect to his top three priorities on immigration, Senator John McCain has stated the following: “As president, I will secure the border. I will restore the trust Americans should have in the basic competency of their government. A secure border is an essential element of our national security. Tight border security includes not just the entry and exit of people, but also the effective screening of cargo at our ports and other points of entry.

We can further strengthen our border security if we pursue policies that recognize the importance of building strong allies in Mexico and Latin America who reject the siren call of authoritarians like Hugo Chavez, support freedom and democracy, and seek strong domestic economies with abundant economic opportunities for their citizens. Furthermore, our policies must promote robust economic growth – by keeping government spending in check, holding down taxes, and cutting unnecessary regulatory burdens — so American businesses can hire and pay the best. They must recognize the importance of a flexible labor market to keep employers in business and our economy on top. It should provide skilled Americans and immigrants with opportunity.

Our education system should ensure skills for our younger workers, and our retraining and assistance programs for displaced workers must be modernized so they can pursue those opportunities. Our policies must also recognize the importance of assimilation of our immigrant population, which includes learning English, American history and civics, and respecting the values of a democratic society — and that America will always be that ‘shining city upon a hill,’ a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism.”

Senator McCain supports a path of legalization for illegal immigrants that includes paying fines and learning English.

Voting history on immigration issues:

  • Like Senator Obama, Senator McCain co-sponsored the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2007, which would allow states to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition for higher education and let the homeland security secretary confer legal resident status on some illegal immigrant students.
  • Senator McCain co-sponsored a plan that Senators Obama and Clinton both voted yes on—the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which would have created a guest worker program and addressed border security issues.
  • Also like Senators Clinton and Obama, Senator McCain voted yes on the "Secure Fence Act of 2006," which created 700 miles of new fence along the U.S./Mexico border.

Ron Paul – Republican Party

As of March 5, 5 delegates won

U.S. Representative Ron Paul has stated that his six point plan on immigration reform is to “This is my six point plan: (1) Physically secure our borders and coastlines… , (2) Enforce visa rules… . This is especially important when we recall that a number of 9/11 terrorists had expired visas; (3) No amnesty. Estimates suggest that 10 to 20 million people are in our country illegally. That’s a lot of people to reward for breaking our laws; (4) No welfare for illegal aliens. Americans have welcomed immigrants who seek opportunity, work hard, and play by the rules. But taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals, clinics, schools, roads, and social services; (5) End birthright citizenship. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the incentive to enter the U.S. illegally will remain strong; (6) pass true immigration reform…. Legal immigrants from all countries should face the same rules and waiting periods.”

Mike Gravel – Democratic Party

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel states that he “favors protecting our borders and monitoring the flow of immigrants into our country. He also favors a “guest worker program and setting up naturalization procedures that would fairly bring immigrants into legal status. America must address the root cause of illegal immigration… The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a disaster for the working class of both the U.S. and Mexico and a boon to the international corporate interests….”

Ralph Nader – Green Party

With respect to immigration reform, Nader has been reported to have said that “[t]he first stage for our immigration policy is stop supporting oligarchs, dictatorships, authoritarian regimes that drive people to leave their native lands out of economic desperation or political repression…. We cannot have open borders… . One way is to provide work permits for people who come in and do work for short periods of time that Americans don’t want to do instead of criminalizing the border….” Nader has also been reported to support a guest worker program, “under work permits, so everything is above board. So they are not exploited…. Farm labor, whether American or unlawful immigrants, don’t have the protection under labor laws that industrial workers have. The idea is to bring all farm labor under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

Sources:

See “Election Guide 2008,” The New York Times (accessed March 13, 2008), available at
http://politics.nytimes.com/;

See also “Hillary for President” (accessed March 12, 2008), available at
http://www.hillaryclinton.com/splash/;

See also “Obama for America” (accessed March 12, 2008), available at
http://www.barackobama.com/;

See also “Mike Gavel for President 2008—Let the People Decide” (accessed March 13, 2008) available at
http://www.gravel2008.us;

See also “Ron Paul 2008-Hope for America” (accessed March 13, 2008), available at
http://www.ronpaul2008.com/issues/border-security-and-immigration-reform/;

See also “Candidates on the Issues” (accessed March 13, 2008), available at
http://www.ontheissues.org/2008/Ralph_Nader_Immigration.htm

StatisticsReview of Fitzgerald & Co