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The GOP and Immigration: Is This the 2012 Election Hot Button Topic?

by Ken Robinson, Attorney and ImmigRanter at Slowik & Robinson, LLC

repub2012The little known secret in the GOP is that immigration policy matters. However, the beauty contest that is this year’s run-up to the GOP primary season has made it clear: These contestants don’t want anything to do with an immigration policy if it means more than a simple “out with the undocumented.”

Immigration policy is certainly a hot button topic for the upcoming Presidential Election. We know it, you know it, and the GOP knows it. Why else the sudden emphasis by GOP hopefuls and by GOP members of Congress? Why else the sudden interest, albeit very reluctant, in a topic that the GOP has tended to avoid for fear of immigrant backlash?

All of the candidates claim to now favor immigration reform, though each has his or her own unique solution, and all acknowledge the need for border control. Some focus on a combination of constructing a physical fence and other technological means such as aviation assets to secure the border. They, while acknowledging the need to deal with people already in the country illegally, feel that a secure border must be the highest priority. Others focus on ways to discourage illegal immigration such as employer sanctions and denial of benefits. Still others prefer to focus on the question of long term illegal immigrants and the proper course of action once they’re identified.

The long-term illegal immigrants present the most difficult challenges to policymakers and political leaders — some of these longer-term “residents” have been working and living in the U.S. for decades and have established significant family ties and deep community roots. Many of these undocumented foreign nationals have U.S. citizen children who know of no other existence than the U.S., having been born, educated raised here…

Of course no one wants to harm these children, but the fact of the matter is that their parents are here illegally. Many GOP hopefuls are content to consider them unfortunate victims in the “war against the undocumented” or “WATU.” (I am going to coin this phrase in the event that the “War Against Terror” begins to diminish as a talking point. But whenever we have a “War Against – fill in the blank (Poverty, Drugs, Crime, the Kardashians), it typically doesn’t end well).

So, what is the proper disposition: deportation? penalty? forgiveness?; And when is each option appropriate? None of the candidates appear to favor a “path to citizenship,” though some favor a guest worker program or other “lighter” remedies that ultimately fails to provide long-term security for those immigrants that might benefit.

The Rant

Let’s be honest about it – what the GOP hopefuls have put forth is not a plan or a policy, it is a reaction to a problem. A problem that involves cooperation at the local, state and federal levels to address – by the public and private sectors – in a bi-partisan, non-dogmatic way. Making matters worse, considering that Congress has proven it cannot compromise on literally any substantial issue, the only DREAM Act that will be considered will be the act of holding out hope for real comprehensive immigration reform.

Next time, we’ll discuss in more detail the individual candidate’s views on immigration.

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