Monday, September 15, 2008

US presidential candidates on immigration issues

With an estimated 2 to 3 million Salvadorans currently in the US (both documented and undocumented combined), US policy on immigration is an issue of great interest and concern to those of us with connections to communities in El Salvador and Salvadorans living in the US. The US Salvadoran community constitutes among one third of the overall El Salvadoran population.

In an ad from the McCain campaign, Obama is accused for not staying on the side of the immigrants. The new ad is launched in battleground states with a significant number of hispanic voters. Obama and the Senate Democrats are also blamed for the immigration reform failure because of their "flawed" immigration policy.

But a closer look upon the candidates immigration policy programs, shows that the differences in policy are small. In addition, the candidates have an identical voting record on these issues from last year. The major issues for both candidates in the immigration question are border security, tougher stance on employers hiring illegal immigrants, helping undocumented immigrants into the society, and reducing the wall of bureaucracy.

The candidates will also promote family reunification and facilitate work opportunities for immigrants in sectors where labor is needed. Sen. McCain has made his plan on the latter issue more detailed than Sen. Obama and has specified worker programs for high-skilled and low-skilled workers. Sen. Obama states that he wants immigrants to fill wholes in the economy where labor is demanded.

On the issue of family reunification, Sen. Obama has been more promotive than Sen. McCain. Sen. Obama has already introduced some amendments which emphasize the importance of reunification. However, he does not present specific means to solve the problem. Sen. McCain has put this issue at the bottom of his program, and provides a fairly short description of it. Differences between the candidates can thus be seen in their priority of these means.

Nevertheless, it could be difficult to clearly point out the candidate whose program is best designed to take care of El Salvadoran immigrants and their fellows back in El Salvador. Remittances from El Salvadoran immigrants are imperative for their familiares back home, and improved working conditions for these immigrants could be of great value for them both. Separated families living on each side of the Mexico Gulf can be a tough experience, especially for children. Facilitating the process of family reunification can lead to increased stability, safety, and happiness in the lifes of those people.

No comments: