Where the candidates stand on immigration
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, January 27, 2008
(01-27) 04:00 PST Washington -- Immigration could turn into the wedge issue of the 2008 presidential campaign if Republicans nominate a hard-liner, and a recession magnifies fears of job losses.
But it won't be easy.
Republicans in the past two years have made themselves the restrictionist party on immigration, bucking President Bush. Yet the leading GOP presidential candidates were not immigration hawks before they sought their party's nomination.
One of them, Sen. John McCain, is squarely in the pro-legalization camp for the estimated 12 million people in the country illegally but now emphasizes border enforcement. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has toughened his stance but still supports a path to citizenship. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee became a born-again hard-liner and promptly lost the South Carolina primary, ostensibly fertile ground for railing against illegal immigrants.
Democrats, with notable exceptions in rural areas and some old-line union pockets, tend to be the party of legalization. They are now well positioned to recapture pivotal Latino voters who had swung to Bush in 2000 and 2004. But they also fear strong public antipathy toward increasing overall immigration levels, which legalization may provoke.
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards have tried to inoculate themselves by pushing tougher border controls, including a fence and a new employer verification system, in tandem with a path to legalization. The Latino vote is a big prize in the 2008 election. Latinos are the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority. Looking at population trends, political experts in both parties believe that if Latinos migrate firmly into the Democrats' corner, they could capture the West for Democrats and keep Republicans out of the White House for decades.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
Would make it easier for legal immigrants to bring in extended family. Favors a guest worker program only for agriculture. Opposes worksite raids and wants a new employer verification system, saying the current one is prone to errors. Voted for a border fence. Opposes driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.
Supports some fencing. Opposes guest worker programs if they have no route to citizenship. Supports tougher worksite enforcement but says "database-driven" employer verification systems could make the problem worse. Opposes driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.
Promises to push for immigration reform during his first year in office. Supports guest worker programs if workers can change jobs. Voted for a border fence. Wants a new employer verification system. Supports tougher worksite enforcement but says workers are bearing the brunt of a broken system. Supports more visas for highly skilled workers, but thinks family ties should remain the basis of legal immigration. Supports driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.
Supports a path to earned legalization. Would increase visas for foreign workers and students. Favors national database and biometric identification cards for all noncitizens to improve workplace and border controls. Would deport 300,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, but wants to avoid "scapegoating" employers.
After attacks from rivals claiming he is soft on illegal immigration, adopted an ultra-tough nine-point plan borrowed largely from the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies that would give illegal immigrants 120 days to register with the federal government and leave the country or be barred from re-entry for a decade.
Co-sponsored the legalization plan that died in the Senate in June, almost killing his shot at the nomination. Has since de-emphasized legalization and insists border security comes first.
Calls legalization amnesty. Opposes increases in legal immigration. Sponsored a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants born in the United States. Supports tougher worksite enforcement, but opposes a mandatory employer verification system, saying the government's failure to control the border is not an excuse to impose new restrictions on the private sector.
Does not want a path to legalization, but favors more visas for highly skilled and seasonal workers. Says current system "puts up a concrete wall to the best and brightest, yet those without skill or education are able to walk across the border." Would create biometric card for noncitizens and a new employment verification system, with tougher sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Opposes birthright citizenship.
E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at email@example.com.
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