Vote 2008 - Inside the Issues: Immigration

January 25, 2008 7:26:32 AM PST
This week, we're stepping back from the day-to-day politics of the presidential race to look at where the candidates stand on the major issues.The presidential candidates in both parties agree that with an estimated 12 million people here in this country illegally, the nation's immigration laws have failed and have to be fixed. But whether that means a pathway to citizenship, a bigger fence at the border or a one-way ticket out of here depends on who you ask.

Demonstrators in cities around the country, including chicago, spilled into the streets in an attempt to put the issue of immigration reform on the front burner of lawmakers' agendas.

Immigration is also a hot-button issue for the presidential candidates. And the Republican frontrunners agree on finishing the fence that separates the U.S. from Mexico and beefing up border patrols. But they're split on how to handle the undocumented workers who already live here.

Senator John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani both want to create a pathway to legal citizenship that requires undocumented workers to pay fines and learn English. In addition, Giuliani wants to issue biometric ID cards, while McCain favors the establishment of a guest worker program.

Former governors Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney both say "no" to letting illegals become citizens. And they want to toughen the penalties against companies that employ them. Huckabee would give illegal immigrants 120 days to register and then leave the country. Romney wants to cut funding to cities that don't enforce immigration laws.

The leading Democrats would also stiffen the penalties against employers that hire undocumented workers. And they support a fence along the border with Mexico. But they also favor a legalization process that includes fines and learning English.

But Democrats are divided over the creation of a guest worker program and the granting of drivers' licenses to illegals.

Senator Hillary Clinton and Former Senator John Edwards oppose both initiatives, while Senator Barack Obama stands alone among the candidates in both parties in supporting those two programs.

The immigration issue used to be about little more than jobs, a fear that foreigners working on the cheap were depriving Americans of employment opportunities. But the attacks on 9-11 refocused the issue on homeland security. And now, with both concerns inextricably linked, this issue is complicated, and there are no easy solutions.