Archive for January 23rd, 2008

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Why Obama, Part I: Immigration

January 23, 2008

Update: Subsequent installments to the “Why Obama” series can be found in the comments section of this thread, in the form of pingbacks. 

When I announced that the Chamber would be endorsing Senator Barack Obama for president in ’08, I promised to expand on that rationale in posts that would follow.  So, here I go. 

I’ve decided to stick with a format for these posts, where I will pull (in no particular order) one of Obama’s stances on an issue right off his website, add a few thoughts of my own as to why I support the position, and open it up to debate and discussion.  I believe that this format will allow for a sense of consistency and at the same time provide a forum for the issue to be analyzed, picked apart, attacked, and defended.  And even though I have endorsed Sen. Obama, remember that I am unafraid to challenge, defend, or concede any point.  Also, I hereby promise to strive for intellectual honesty and stay true to my personal beliefs, and I am willing to reconsider any given position based on the presentation of a convincing argument or facts that I was previously unaware of.  In short, this is where I test myself, so I encourage others to chime in. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind.

Obama on Immigration (pdf)

The Problem

Undocumented population is exploding: The number of undocumented immigrants in the country has increased more than 40 percent since 2000. Every year, more than a half-million people come illegally or illegally overstay their visas.obama08_thumblogo100.gif

Immigration bureaucracy is broken: The immigration bureaucracy is broken and overwhelmed, forcing legal immigrants to wait years for applications.

Immigration raids are ineffective: Despite a sevenfold increase in recent years, immigration raids only netted 3,600 arrests in 2006 and have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families.

Barack Obama’s Plan

Create Secure Borders

Obama wants to preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.

Improve Our Immigration System

Obama believes 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.

Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally

Obama will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

Bring People Out of the Shadows

Obama supports 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.

Work with Mexico

Obama believes we need to do more to promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration.

Barack Obama’s Record

  • Crack Down on Employers: Obama championed a proposal to create a system so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Fix the Bureaucracy: Obama joined Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to introduce the Citizenship Promotion Act to ensure that immigration application fees are both reasonable and fair. Obama also introduced legislation that passed the Senate to improve the speed and accuracy of FBI background checks.
  • Respect Families: Obama introduced amendments to put greater emphasis on keeping immigrant families together.

I consider myself to have a relatively uncompassionate view on this topic.  In fact, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve considered myself to be sympathetic to the stated mission of the Minutemen, in the sense that a community would support the actions of a neighborhood watch group.  We have laws, but the methods of enforcement appears to have taken a turn toward a status of “woefully inadequate”.  I have no problem abiding the laws of the land on a daily basis, and I would expect the same from anyone who enters this country.  I see our porous borders as a significant security risk as well.  In short, I’m definitely not in the “open borders” crowd.

That said, I don’t believe that a impenetrable wall or fence is the answer.  It seems so 5th century BC, after all.  That, and I’m a big fan of the critters.  Also, the idea of mass deportations and taking babies out of the hands of their mothers strikes me as inhumane (or in the very least, a punishment that probably doesn’t fit the crime).

So, an answer would seem to lie in bolstering the ability to enforce the law by increasing the number of border agents, taking advantage of 21st century technology (in the form of both border surveillance and identification) and target the enablers (those who knowingly hire illegals).  And a path towards citizenship should be offered to those who work hard and otherwise respect our laws, even if the details need to be ironed out.

It’s a difficult issue, characterized by significant scale and far-reaching implicatons and effects, and it’s doubtful that any given solution will go perfectly, but I’d consider Obama’s approach to be very rational.

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