Immigration Law a Hot Topic Among Republican Primary Candidates

Republican primaries continue across America, with South Carolina as their next scheduled stop. The issue of immigration is expected to be a hot topic. It goes without saying that the vast majority of the candidates are taking a firm stance against illegal immigration, but it remains to be seen what their positions will be on any adjustments to the legal immigration process. South Carolina, much like Arizona, is being sued by the Federal government for its crackdown against illegal immigration, so while issues like the jobs and foreign policy may take center stage, South Carolina voters are very attuned to the issue of illegal immigration. The former chairman of the South Carolina GOP Van Hipp Jr said “that’s very much an important issue in South Carolina.” Mitt Romney has arguably the most aggressive attitude towards immigration, having been reported to praise South Carolina’s immigration law, while adding his own policies into the mix. Mitt Romney has recently gotten an official endorsement from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was the co-author of the illegal immigration laws in various states, most notably Arizona. Romney said that he would like to work with Kobach to “support states like South Carolina and Arizona that are stepping forward to address this problem.” Mitt Romney’s campaign also recently put out a statement from Kobach wherein he called Romney “the candidate who will finally secure the borders and put a stop to the magnets, like in-state tuition, that encourage illegal aliens to remain in our country unlawfully.” None of the candidates have an easy road ahead of them though. It will take conviction and finesse to persuade South Carolinans that they understand their attitudes towards illegal immigration. The next stop for the primaries is Florida, which is very immigrant-heavy. Newt Gingrich gave a warning to Romney during a stop in New Hampshire last weekend. Romney has publicly challenged Gingrich’s plan to let some illegal immigrants stay in the country. Gingrich said to/about Romney “I can’t wait for them to campaign in Florida. Try to go into Miami with the battle cry ‘everybody must go’. That is clearly going to come across in the immigrant community as a sign you have no sense of humanity for people.” Romney is taking a smart approach, with a newly-released Spanish-language ad that currently airs in Florida. The ad shows Cuban-America politicians and lawmakers praising Romney in Spanish. At the same time, his campaign is trying to exploit weaknesses in his fellow candidates’ immigration records. The comment by Kobach about in-state tuition seemed likely to be aimed at Rick Perry, criticizing his support of programs that provide in-state tuition rates to young illegal immigrants in Texas. South Carolinans have shown distaste towards that particular stance, according to polls taken recently. NBC News/Marist reported that 80 percent of those that responded to the poll said that favoring illegal immigrants with regards to in-state tuition is “not acceptable” in a GOP presidential nominee. A candidate supporting “limited amnesty” was accepted better, with 53 percent calling it “acceptable” and only 41 percent saying it is not. Romney has done his best to adopt an anti-amnesty position, saying just last month that if elected, he would veto the so-called DREAM Act, which is a proposal that would provide young illegal immigrants a road to legal status if they join the military or attend college. Romney has also said that in order to get a green card, he would require illegal immigrants to return to their home country first. This was a response to Newt Gingrich’s proposed plan of setting up “local citizen panels” that would review individual immigration cases, and ultimately allow illegal immigrants with long-standing ties to receive legal status. The cutoff to be eligible for this program was stated by Gingrich to be 25 years. While criticized by his opponents, Gingrich has defended his plan, while planning out arguably the most comprehensive immigration platform of any candidate. Part of Gingrich’s plan is to have Homeland Security shift their resources to the border, a legal guest worker program would be instated, and there would be an overhaul to visa rules which would allow highly-skilled immigrants much easier access to work in the country. Rick Perry has states that he doesn’t support a border fence, as most of the other candidates do, but has stressed that he’s dealt with illegal immigration in Texas for over a decade. He has criticized the federal government for their lack in dealing with immigration, which is what caused the harsh illegal immigration laws to be enacted in South Carolina and Arizona. Perry currently has an endorsement from Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Ron Paul took a very strong stance, saying that he would like to end “birthright citizenship” which currently allows children of illegal immigrants born on U.S. soil to become citizens automatically. Hipp reportedly gave Gingrich credit for supporting a double fence across the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border. He also said that while Romney and Santorum are also strong on the issue of the border fence, they haven’t signed the pledge yet. Immigration has been a hot issue for a while now, and it shows no sign of cooling off. Regardless of the various candidates’ stances, there can be no doubt that immigration law will be undergoing some changes. It is now more important than ever to be aware of any potential changes that a candidate’s stance on important issues like immigration can cause. It will be interesting to see how the various candidates' stances affect public opinion.
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