The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Views from Abroad: Brazil on U.S. Immigration

by Toni Johnson
May 27, 2012

Sugar Loaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro, April 8, 2010. (Sergio Moraes/ Courtesy Reuters)


On this week’s views, we have some interesting items via the site Worldcrunch, which kindly translates partner news outlets from around the world into English and has a section devoted to “Eyes on the U.S.”

To start, we head to Brazil to hear the story of Lucas Santos, who came to the United States illegally with his parents thirteen years ago as a boy of eight. Immigration has remained a hot-button campaign topic, especially on what to do with kids like Santos. In an interview with a writer for Folha de S. Paulo, Santos says he and his family, through the help of his father’s employer, were able to get green cards, and since then, he has become an intern in the U.S. Congress at twenty one. He says the experience has made him focus on U.S. immigration reform:

Young people got excited with Obama, but it would require someone like him again to make it happen again. His reelection wouldn’t bring so much hope this time. The Latino community has lost some of the faith in Obama as well. He had the majority in Congress and could have approved immigration reform, but didn’t even try. If he is reelected, he must try to do it. The experts say that Latinos will be the key to these elections. The lawmakers who represent Latino communities do a good job, but parties are a limiting factor.  See the Dream Act [a legislative proposal that would legalize children of irregular immigrants]. I don’t see a reason for even debating it – it is so obvious.

On to China, where President Obama’s announcement supporting gay marriage has led to a piece in EEO from Xie Tao, a professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University. Xie makes the case that while the Chinese see these kinds of issues as evidence of U.S. immorality and blame U.S. freedoms for the phenomenon, the Chinese are missing the real point about the importance of public morality versus private. He also goes on to discuss how moral issues versus the economy are playing in the U.S. election, specifically in context outlined by Thomas Frank’s book,”What’s the Matter with Kansas?”:

[A] lot of lower-middle class Americans are beginning to support a conservative Republican agenda, despite the latter’s fiscal austerity policy being most disadvantageous to them. In other words, the conservatives have replaced economic issues with moral issues in order to win over the lower-middle class American vote. Of course, there are also numerous scholars who express doubts about Frank’s view. They argue that what most affected the American presidential election of 2004 was the Iraq War and national security. Some scholars also use massive opinion poll data to prove that the ordinary American public isn’t really engaged in a battle of life and death just because they have differences over moral issues. No matter what the outcome of the November election is, what should be more important and interesting for us Chinese remains the morality of American politicians. Though there are always private life scandals which are bound be exposed, such as those of former Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, it is nonetheless much less important in comparison with their public morality. After all, what country – democratic or otherwise – doesn’t have politicians involved in extra-marital love affairs.

On to England where we break from Worldcrunch and check in on the Economist, which takes a different look at social issues and the U.S. campaign. The Lexington blog says that, while GOP challenger Mitt Romney would like to focus on the economy not social issues, things don’t seem to be working out that way:

Republican strategists used to assume that social issues were a vote-winner for them; now they seem to worry that too much righteous talk will put off centrists by making the party seem unpalatably moralising. Very few Americans rate gay marriage as the most pressing issue of the day, and those that do have surely long ago decided how they will vote; opponents for Mr Romney, and supporters for Mr Obama. Much the same goes for other subjects that rile the conservative faithful. Mr Romney suddenly seems to have few thoughts about illegal immigration, global warming or activist judges. Instead, he devotes himself almost exclusively to talk of the economy, with the odd jab at Mr Obama’s health-care reforms. That, after all, is what swing voters care most about, and the area in which they are most unhappy with the president’s performance.


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