EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a special series of stories focusing on the election that Baptist Press will run between now and Nov. 4. Stories will run on Wednesdays and Fridays.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–This is the fifth in a series of stories focusing on one specific national issue and detailing where the two major presidential candidates stand. Called “In Their Own Words,” the stories avoid commentary and instead present the candidates’ views as they have stated them in the past — either in interviews, speeches, debates or on their campaign websites.
Baptist Press in recent weeks has spotlighted the issues of abortion, Iraq the Supreme Court and the energy crisis. Today, BP takes a look at the candidates’ positions on immigration reform/border security.
— Obama’s overall view on immigration reform/border security: “The time to fix our broken immigration system is now…. We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace…. But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America…. Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should” (statement, U.S. Senate floor, May 23, 2007). “Barack Obama has played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe the immigration issue has been exploited by politicians to divide the nation rather than find real solutions. This divisiveness has allowed the illegal immigration problem to worsen, with borders that are less secure than ever and an economy that depends on millions of workers living in the shadows. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a complete solution that secures our border, enforces our laws and reaffirms our heritage as a nation of immigrants” (BarackObama.com). “This election is about the 12 million people living in the shadows, the communities taking immigration enforcement into their own hand. They are counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, and rise above the fear, and rise above the demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform” (speech before Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2008, as reported by The Wall Street Journal).
— Obama’s plan for immigration reform (according to his website): “1) Create Secure Borders. Obama and Biden want to preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry. 2) Improve Our Immigration System. Obama and Biden believe we must fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill. 3) Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally. Obama and Biden will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. 4) Bring People Out of the Shadows. Obama and Biden support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. 5) Work with Mexico. Obama and Biden believe we need to do more to promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration” (BarackObama.com).
— Obama’s views on border security: “Barack Obama and Joe Biden want to preserve the integrity of our borders. They support additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we need additional Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence” (BarackObama.com).
— Obama’s views on how a bill should address illegal immigrants already in the U.S.: “America has always been a nation of immigrants. There are millions of people living in the shadows who would like to fully embrace our values and become full members of our democracy. For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must encourage them to come out of hiding and get right with the law. Barack Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, not violate the law, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens…. Every year, a million people enter the country legally and another 500,000-800,000 people come illegally or illegally overstay their visas. The overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, come to this country with the hope that hard work and sacrifice will secure a better life for their children. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we must fix the dysfunctional bureaucracy to balance the needs of American workers and the U.S. economy. They also realize the need to increase the number of people we allow into the country legally to a level that keeps families together and meets the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill” (BarackObama.com).
— McCain’s overall view on immigration reform/border security: “As you know, I and many other colleagues twice attempted to pass comprehensive immigration legislation to fix our broken borders; ensure respect for the laws of this country; recognize the important economic contribution of immigrant laborers; apprehend those who came here illegally to commit crimes; and deal practically and humanely with those who came here, as my distant ancestors did, to build a better, safer life for their families, without excusing the fact they came here illegally or granting them privileges before those who have been waiting their turn outside the country. Many Americans did not believe us when we said we would secure our borders [during congressional debate on a failed bill], and so we failed in our efforts. I don’t want to fail again to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. We must prove we have the resources to secure our borders and use them, while respecting the dignity and rights of citizens and legal residents of the United States. When we have achieved our border security goal, we must enact and implement the other parts of practical, fair and necessary immigration policy. We have economic and humanitarian responsibilities as well, and they require no less dedication from us in meeting them” (JohnMcCain.com).
— McCain’s plan for immigration reform (according to his website): “John McCain believes America’s immigration system is broken. He is committed to a two-step process to reform. 1) Securing Our Borders First. John McCain’s top immigration priority is to finish securing our borders in an expedited manner. Governors of border states will be required to certify that the border is secure…. 2) Comprehensive Immigration Initiatives for a Secure Nation. Once the borders are secure, John McCain will: a) Prosecute “Bad-Actor” Employers. John McCain will implement a secure, accurate, and reliable electronic employment verification system to ensure that individuals are screened for work eligibility in a real-time fashion. John McCain will use this new system in conjunction with other Department of Homeland Security resources to identify and aggressively prosecute employers that continue to hire illegal immigrants…. b) Meet America’s Labor Needs. John McCain will implement temporary worker programs that will reflect the labor needs of the United States in both the high-tech and low skilled sectors while protecting the employment opportunities for US workers…. c) Address the Undocumented. John McCain will address the fact that we have a large number [of] undocumented individuals living in the United States and working in our economy…. d) Eliminate the Family Backlog. John McCain will commit to clearing out the backlog of individuals that are waiting legally outside of the country, some for up to 20 years, for their green card number to become available” (JohnMcCain.com).
— McCain’s views on border security: “John McCain’s top immigration priority is to finish securing our borders in an expedited manner. Governors of border states will be required to certify that the border is secure. Steps to border security include: Setting clear guidelines and objectives for securing the border through physical and virtual barriers; ensuring that adequate funding is provided for resources on the ground, but also training facilities, support staff and the deployment of technologies; dedicating funding to US Attorney’s offices in border states; implementing sound policies for contracting Department of Homeland Security software and infrastructure; deploy Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and other aircraft where needed and appropriate in the border region; continue implementation of the US-VISIT comprehensive visitor security program” (JohnMcCain.com).
— McCain’s views on how a bill should address illegal immigrants already in the U.S.: “All undocumented individuals will be required to enroll in a program to resolve their status. This program will use background checks to identify criminal aliens for prosecution and deportation. [It will] a) Assure that the remaining undocumented immigrants learn English, pay back taxes and fines, and pass a citizenship course as part of a path to legal status. b) Guarantee that no person here illegally receives a green card before those that have been legally waiting outside the country. c) Do a proper accounting of all social security numbers used and attained illegally, rectifying the accounts and alerting those whose identity had been compromised. The program will also ensure that all undocumented aliens either leave or follow the path to legal residence. America cannot permit a permanent category of individuals that do not have recognized status — a permanent second class. In addition, the program will provide a system that is fair, humane, realistic, and ensures the rights of the individual and families will be protected. [It will] a) Ensure that families are reunited. b) Address in an expedited manner the status of individuals brought here illegally as minors through no will or intention of their own” (JohnMcCain.com).
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.