Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Illegal Immigration and the 2012 Campaign

by Shannon K. O'Neil
February 16, 2012

I wrote a piece for CNN Global Public Square entitled “Illegal Immigration and the 2012 Campaign,” which highlights the role illegal immigration plays in the 2012 U.S. presidential race. In it I discuss how the rhetoric does not always match up to current immigration realities, and how the Hispanic vote will affect the upcoming election. Here is a brief excerpt:

As the country begins to turn to the general election next November, immigration remains a difficult issue for both political parties. During the early Republican primary debates, candidates talked enthusiastically about mass deportations and expanding, doubling, and even electrifying the U.S. southern border fence to keep people out. As the field has narrowed, the leading contenders have continued with a hard-line. Romney in particular, though widely seen as a centrist candidate, has taken an unyielding stance on immigration, supporting Arizona’s and Alabama’s restrictive laws and aligning himself with their architect – well-known anti-immigrant official Kris Kobach.

The tone got so strident in the lead up to the Florida primary on January 31 that Florida Senator Marco Rubio (who many say is a potential candidate for Vice President) chastised the Republican candidates for “harsh and intolerable and inexcusable” anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The Democratic Party’s discourse has been more measured. Though all condemn illegal immigration, most speak of immigrants as “folks … just trying to earn a living and provide for their families,” no different from so many forebearers. But in concrete terms, President Obama has little to show immigrants – and more importantly Hispanic voters – from his three plus years in office.

I look forward to your feedback via twitter, facebook or in the comments section.

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  • Posted by hacim obmed

    The main difference between republicans and democrats is based on the calculation that most illegal immigrants will vote democratic by at least a 2 for 1 margin. This idea is backed up by much polling data on the party preference of Latino voters. Naturally if things were the other way around the republicans would be only to happy to flood the country with Illegal aliens. One can surmise this from their avid support for special immigration status of Cuban refugees who tend to be very conservative. So let us try to interject a little honesty into this discussion. There is so much nonsense being spouted on all sides; everything for cries of “alien invasion” on the right, to cries of “racism” on the left. The right has even adopted may old progressive notions about the fear of how “cheap labor” is stealing jobs and so forth. Alas I do not expect anyone to care about the truth in all this but it is a shame that our countries immigration policies have to be determined on the basis of such shallow consideration.

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