Tonight will be the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. The debate will be held in Denver, Colorado, a state that has a high percentage of Latino voters.
In advance of this debate, it is no surprise then that Governor Romney on Monday stated that he would honor the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that President Obama announced on June 15, 2012:
“The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased,” Romney said. “Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”
I mention this news development because many in the immigration community have expressed a fear that Romney as president would revoke the policy and lead to a policy of deporting thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of young adults (who were brought to the United States before the age of 16 through no fault of their own). It is good that we now know what Romney intends to do if and when he arrives at the White House in January 2013, whereas before he spoke in generalities about immigration policy.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Nobody knows what “full immigration reform” would look like under President Romney. I hope that the the candidate will give more specific details regarding what “full immigration reform” entails – not rhetoric about enforcing immigration law and border security. Conventional wisdom states that he will have a difficult time distancing himself from the tough anti-immigration rhetoric that he expressed during his primary campaign to win the Republican nomination.
On the other hand, let’s not allow President Obama to get off the hook. He also has some explaining to do for the immigrant community, especially those who can vote. Immigration reform was not a priority in the past four years, other than his recent election year announcement for DACA. I will also give him some credit for attempting to prioritize deportation cases (otherwise known as requesting prosecutorial discretion) by closing cases for noncriminal immigrants who are in deportation proceedings, rather than deporting them. Still, looking at the numbers, his administration has deported more immigrants at a higher rate than the previous Bush administration. Last year, more than 400,000 immigrants were deported. Families have been torn apart. Economic sectors of this country have been hit hard by this draconian deport-at-all-costs policy. The emotional and societal cost of this policy is immeasurable. His party could not even pass the DREAM Act in the Senate when the Democratic Party had a majority. In my home state of North Carolina, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan voted against it.
Though I will be watching the first of several debates between President Obama and Governor Romney, I unfortunately do not expect that the debate will revolve around any issue other than the economy, taxes, and jobs. If immigration as an issue does come up, emotional rhetoric will be more valuable than facts and details. I hope not.