The split on immigration


The Daily Iowan

The border crossing going back into the United States is photographed on Friday, August 15, 2014 in Progresso, Mexico. An increased number of undocumented immigrants have been crossing over the U.S.-Mexico border. (The Daily Iowan/Rebecca Morin)

The parties are divided on how to approach immigration reform.

By Aaron Walker
[email protected]

“Bad dudes” are running rampant in the United States as a result of failed border security, said Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the second Republican debate.

But while many Republican voters are clearly prioritizing border security as a primary issue this election cycle, there is no consensus on dealing with the current undocumented immigrant population.

“If we don’t seal the border, the rest of this stuff clearly doesn’t matter,” said Republican candidate Ben Carson at the debate on Sept. 16. “It’s kind of ridiculous all the other things we talk about.”

Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science associate professor who believes border security is the root of the problem, agrees a wall is the first step toward a solution.

“The bottom line is if you get this first step done, some sort of security, then the real discussion can occur,” Hagle said. 

The real discussion, he said, has to deal with the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States.  And approximately 40 percent of those immigrants didn’t cross the border illegally.

This is where the partisan divide occurs.  Republican voters have prioritized border security, while Democratic voters have focused on amnesty or a path to citizenship.

Republican voters will weigh a number of options from candidates on how to deal with the undocumented population and will consider everything but outright amnesty, Hagle said.

“Republicans generally don’t like the idea of amnesty because of the immigration deal cut in the ’80s, which said grant amnesty and secure the border,” he said. “But they never secured the border. So Republican voters view it as ‘fool me once, OK, but not twice. We want a secure border.’ ”

Meanwhile, GOP hopefuls have outlined plans ranging from biometric security measures to doing away with the 14th Amendment.

“We need to use electronics, we need to use drones, we need to use FBI, DEA, and ATF,” said former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the debate. “And yes, we need to take the fingerprint of every person who comes into this country.”

But no candidate has outlined the price or feasibility of not only building a wall, let alone the cost of personnel and technology necessary to maintain the border.

With modern technology, a database of fingerprints or DNA is possible, Hagle said. But libertarian leaning candidates such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., see additional problems in the stockpiling of information.

“What some folks say is, ‘It’s just more government information gathering for a database we don’t rally need,’ ” Hagle said.

And then there is the topic of birthright citizenship, which candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio say they want to maintain. But some, like Trump and Paul, say Congress can do away with the rule.

“We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough to have [birthright citizenship],” Trump said at the debate.

He argues the law can be reversed with an act of Congress and “probably doesn’t even need that.” But the vast majority of legal experts believe there would need to be a constitutional amendment to change the law.

And several advocates, including Sandra Sanchez, the program director at the Immigrants Voice Program, said these statements fuel xenophobia and the demonization of Latinos in the United States.

“Our immigrant community is extremely offended and disappointed by such statements,” she said. “We are already experiencing negative impact due to the public perceptions, that since presidential candidates get away with it, now some people believe that they have the right, and in some cases even the obligation, to act out their deeply seeded fear of the stranger.”

She would prefer to focus on assisting those undocumented immigrants who are struggling to find work and those who can’t gain legal access into the United States.

Deportation of 11 million immigrants does not appear to be the solution in Democratic circles. But 47 percent of GOP voting Iowans would like to deport that population, according to the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll released earlier this month with a 4.9 percent error margin.

That, for Sanchez, does not reflect, “our traditional American and faith values.”

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