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Immigration Positions Of President Barack Obama And Republican Presidential Hopefuls, With Comments

by Nolan Rappaport

NumbersUSA[1] has prepared report cards for President Barack Obama and nine of the Republican presidential hopefuls[2]. According to NumbersUSA, the chief difficulties America faces because of current immigration are not triggered by who the immigrants are but by how many they are. An "A+" means that the individual being graded virtually always supports lower immigration and lower U.S. population growth. An "F-" means that the individual virtually always acts to force higher immigration and U.S. population growth. Note that the Republican hopefuls do not have high grades. In fact, three have failing grades.

The graphic above was released by NumbersUSA here.


Gingrich's immigration position is based on three principles. First, no "comprehensive" plan can work. Immigration reform can be outlined as a complete proposal but it has to be passed in a series of steps with each one passed on its own merits. Second, under no circumstance should a path to citizenship be created which would allow those who have broken the law to receive precedence over those who have patiently waited to immigrate lawfully. Those who have adhered to our immigration law should not be usurped by those who have violated it. Third, the goal of legality must be reconciled with the reality that there are millions of immigrants currently here outside the law, some with strong family and community ties, and some with no ties. A system has to be developed to confer lawful status, but not citizenship to those who have deep ties, repatriates those who have no family or community ties in a dignified way, and quickly sends home those who have committed criminal and other destructive acts.

He has proposed the following immigration plan, which he calls, "Ten Steps to a Legal Nation[3]."

      1. Control the border. We need 100% control of the border.
      2. Create a 21st Century Visa Program.
      3. In-source the best brains in the world.
      4. Allow foreigners who want to invest their money and create jobs in America to do so.
      5. Establish a guest-worker program, and outsource management of the program to sophisticated managers of anti-fraud systems, such as American Express or Visa.
      6. Create a path to earned legality for some of the millions of people who are here outside the law
      7. Ensure that the deportation of criminals and gang members is efficient and fast.
      8. Require every new citizen and every young American to learn American history and the key principles of American Exceptionalism.
      9. English must be the official language of government.
      10. Permit undocumented aliens to obtain lawful status by doing military service.

The path to legalization in this plan would include a "citizens' review" process. Committees would be established to screen the applications in individual communities and determine who will continue on this path to legality, and who will be sent home. While this process is ongoing, those here outside the law would be granted temporary legal status for a certain, limited period of time until all have had an opportunity to apply and appear before a committee. The initial step in this process would be a criminal background check. If the applicants do not have a criminal record, the local committees would assess their applications. Congress would provide the committees with understandable, clear, objective legal standards to use in evaluating the applications[4].

Comment. Greg Siskind and I have proposed a program that would address the problem of dealing with applicants in unlawful status while their applications are pending. See Pre-Registration: A Proposal to Kick-Start Comprehensive Immigration Reform[5].


According to Bachmann, Immigrants who come into this country illegally should not get a special pathway to stay here. This type of amnesty will only encourage other immigrants to enter our country illegally[6]. The United States must enforce our immigration laws, period. Reform must not reward those who choose to break our laws by entering the country illegally. The failure of the federal government to enforce immigration laws costs federal, state and local governments billions of dollars annually.America should always welcome, without any trace of discrimination, all legal immigrants. The emphasis must be on the word "legal." The extension of benefits to illegal immigrants would be "madness[7]." We must have an equal emphasis on border security and homeland security. Among other things, a fence she be erected on every inch of the Mexican border.

Immigration reforms should be postponed until the border is secure. Congress must work to secure our nation's borders and enforce the immigration laws already in place. Once this is achieved, improvements to the current system can be considered.

The last time our immigration laws were overhauled was in 1986, with amnesty granted to three million illegal immigrants. At the time, Americans voters were led to believe this would solve our immigration problem. However, since then the number of illegal immigrants has quadrupled (by conservative estimates).

Comment: The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA)[8] overhauled the immigration laws more recently than 1986. In fact, it provided a more comprehensive overhaul of our immigration laws than the Act she is talking about, which I think is the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)[9]. The plan when IRCA was passed was to clear the slate by giving lawful status to unlawful aliens already in the United States, and then prevent unlawful aliens from coming in the future by taking away the "job magnet" with employer sanctions. The enforcement piece did not happen. During the administration of President Bush, for instance, employers receiving final orders for administrative fines in any year between FY2003 and FY2009 represented less than .001% of U.S. employers[10].


Endorsed by controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio[11]. "I don't know the governor that much, I've talked to him a few times but to me he's an honorable, ethical person with a great family. We need that too in Washington. He's a fighter and I'm here to lend all my support to ensure that he becomes president of the United States[12]."

Perry criticizes the Obama administration's catch and release policy under which non-violent illegal aliens are released into the general public with instructions to return when called. According to Perry, every illegal alien who is apprehended should be detained and then deported. Amnesty should not be on the table, period. There should be no amnesty in the United States[13]. Nevertheless, he supports establishing a path to citizenship for young men and women who have done military service for the United States[14].

Actions taken as a Governor.
  • Championed a Voter ID law that ensures only American citizens will be able to vote in elections;
  • Signed into law a requirement that only citizens and legal residents may obtain a driver's license;
  • Signed a law that requires counties to assist the state in tracking the number of illegal immigrants in Texas county jails; and
  • Protected a Texas law that prevents any public agency, taxing jurisdiction, or economic development corporation from receiving public subsidies if they have hired undocumented workers[15].
  • He also takes the position that the border needs to be secure before having a conversation about immigration reform. One of the first things he will do if he is elected, is to deploy thousands of National Guard personnel to secure the southern border.

    On abolishing sanctuary cities in Texas. Governor Perry called for abolishing sanctuary cities in a State of the State address, and he made it an emergency item for the Legislature. Law enforcement officers should have the discretion they need to do their job. Sanctuary city policies handcuff law enforcement officers in order to further a political agenda.

    On banning drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. Having a driver's license is a privilege, not a right. Do not extend this privilege to individuals who are here illegally.

    On the Arizona law. Securing the border and enforcing immigration laws are the federal government's constitutional responsibility, and it's time for Washington to do its job. In the meantime, the states have a right to develop their own solutions.

    On the border fence. Strategic fencing is a critical component of border security, and it works when used in the right places. Expedite construction of strategic fencing along the border, especially in high traffic areas where manpower alone is insufficient to do the job[16].


    "Certainly we have to secure the border. And we talk about people who have been here 25 years, that is the extreme exception. I'm not going to start drawing lines here about who gets to stay and who get to go. The principle is that we are not going to have an amnesty system that says that people who come here illegally get to stay for the rest of their life in this country legally[17]."

    As governor, he vetoed legislation that would have provided in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants, and he strengthened the authority state troopers have to enforce immigration laws. It is hard to justify giving illegal immigrants a $22,000 a year break on tuition when American citizens from other states cannot get that advantage. We must stop providing the incentives that promote illegal immigration.

    Individuals who are here illegally should begin a process either of returning to their homes -- particularly those who are unable to be here without government support or those who are involved in crime -- or begin a process of registering for citizenship, applying for citizenship, and then carrying out the process necessary to get there[18].

    Complete construction of a high-tech fence along the border, and invest in adequate manpower and resources to maintain it.

    We need to get tough on employers who hire illegal immigrants. That means putting in place an employment verification system that is both reliable and secure[19].


    "Americans have embraced their role as the world's premier "melting pot," welcoming immigrants from every corner of the planet. We readily learn about other cultures, customs and beliefs. We appreciate those who are willing to come to this country and make America a more vibrant and enriched place. Americans do resent, however, the willingness of some to circumvent our laws and enter our nation illegally. While many, if not most, illegal immigrants are peaceful people simply seeking to provide for their families, some are not. In fact, some are quite dangerous, jeopardizing the safety and well-being of American citizens[20]."

    Illegal immigration has increased illegal activity. This includes the horrendous crimes of drug smuggling and human trafficking. Weak borders have caused a compounding problem of terrorists assimilating with illegal immigrants. The terrorists then cross the border with the illegal immigrants. If the group they are in is caught entering without inspection, they will try to avoid detection by appearing to be immigrants coming to the United States to work.

    Illegal immigration also puts a tremendous strain on America's entitlement and health care systems. Illegal immigrants usually are uninsured and unable to pay for medical care. They receive medical care at hospitals and do not pay for it. The hospitals have to cover these costs, so they pass them on to the people who pay their medical bills. This increases costs for all Americans, and it does not always work. Several hospitals in the United States have declared bankruptcy because of the unreimbursed costs of caring for illegal immigrants.

    We must secure our borders, enforce our laws and promote the existing paths to citizenship. Protecting our nation's sovereignty should be a paramount concern of those elected to lead us, not an afterthought or a reaction when the problem has become much worse[21]. An insecure border is a national security threat. We know that terrorists have come into this country by way of Mexico[22].


    "When elected president, I'm simply going to prove to the American people that we can secure the border. That's what they want done. And I'm not going to talk about anything else until we get it done[23]."

    H1B visa process is broken. We have to fix this process. We need H-1B visas to bring brainpower to this country to shore up our economic might[24].

    Focus on fixing legal immigration as well as illegal. If we want to do something about attracting brainpower to this country, we need to focus as much on legal immigration as we are on illegal immigration[25].

    End the patchwork of state laws. State involvement in immigration enforcement has created a patchwork of solutions in the states, which makes for a very complex and confusing environment[26].


    "If you subsidize something or give people incentives, you get more of it. So if you give easy road to citizenship, you're going to have more illegals ... mandating to the states and to Texas that we have to provide free medical care and free education, that's a great burden. It's a great burden to California and all the border states. So I would say eliminate all these benefits and talk about eliminating the welfare state because it's detrimental not only to here but the people that come because that's the incentive to bring their families with them[27]."

    Secure the border and enforce U.S. laws instead of policing the world and implementing UN mandates.

    Amnesty should not be granted, and there should be an end to birthright citizenship. As President, he would encourage legal immigration by streamlining the entry process without rewarding lawbreakers[28].


    "America is a land of immigrants. Legal immigration should focus on making it easier and simpler for willing workers to come here with a temporary work visa, pay taxes, contribute to society, and fill jobs as the market demands. As the former governor of a southern border state, I know fences and walls do not keep out illegal immigrants. Real border security means knowing who is coming here and why. With workable employer verification systems, smarter border enforcement, and common sense, a national problem can be turned into a national benefit."

    The United States must adopt two approaches.

    #1. Simplify Legal Immigration.
  • Make it easier for immigrants to get a work visa. If they pass a background check, give them a Social Security card.
  • Establish a two-year grace period for illegal immigrants to attain work visas.
  • Give immigrants with temporary work visas access to the normal procedures for gaining permanent status and citizenship.

  • #2. Tackle Illegal Immigration.
  • Legalize marijuana.
  • Streamline the legal immigration process to reduce illegal immigration and allow the U.S. to know who enters the country and for what reasons.
  • Enforce a "one strike, you're out" rule for immigrants who circumvent the streamlined work visa process.
  • Impose and enforce sanctions on employers for noncompliance with immigration laws[29].


    No in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Most folks who want go to the State of Texas or any other college out of state have to pay the full tuition. Why are we subsidizing the illegal immigrants? They can go. They just have to borrow money, find other sources to be able to go. And why should they be given preferential treatment as an illegal in this country?

    Finish the border fence. We need to build more fence. We need to secure the border using technology and more personnel. And until we build that border, we should neither have storm troopers come in and throw people out of the country nor should we provide amnesty[30].

    No tricks like 1986; secure the border first. If we discuss immigration reform before securing the border, we will face the same trick that was pulled in 1986. We are going to secure the border first. Then we will have the immigration reform discussion[31].

    Comment. Santorum is referring to what happened with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). The Republicans agreed to the IRCA legalization program with the understanding that future illegal immigration would be stopped by removing the job magnet with an employer sanctions program to discourage the hiring of more undocumented aliens. The legalization program took place, but the enforcement piece was not implemented. The result is that we have almost four times the number of undocumented immigrants now than we had in 1986. Concern that this will happen again is a major obstacle to Republican coopertion on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and I do not think that a secure border will be enough to satisfy that concern.

    No promises and no government benefits to immigrants. We want immigrants to come to this country, but we want them to come here like my grandfather and my father came here. They made sacrifices. They came in the 1920s. There were no promises. There were no government benefits. They came because they wanted to be free and they wanted to be good law-abiding citizens[32].

    No benefits for illegal immigrants. The federal government should not require states to provide government services for illegal immigrants. People who have come here legally wanted the opportunities of this country, not government benefits. We should not be offering government benefits to people who broke the law to come here or overstayed their visa[33].


    Enforcement. President Obama has focused enforcement efforts on his administration's highest priorities. This includes aliens who are a threat to national security; recent illegal entrants; repeat violators of immigration law; and aliens who are fugitives from justice or otherwise obstruct immigration controls[34].

    A Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System[35]

    Responsibility of the Federal Government to Secure our Borders

    The Challenge. Significant challenges must be faced in developing and maintaining the infrastructure, technology, and manpower necessary to secure our borders. For instance, despite progress in combating transnational criminal organizations, much work is still needed to prevent these sophisticated criminal enterprises from smuggling drugs, guns, cash, and people into the United States.

    Principles for Moving Forward. New ideas must be developed that include tough but fair procedures to crack down on illegal border crossers, traffickers, smugglers, criminals, employers who hire illegal workers, and those who overstay their visas. Maintain strong partnerships and cooperation with Mexico in order to work together to secure both sides of the border and reduce crime and illegal activity. Reduce the incentives for people to cross the border illegally by increasing interior and workplace enforcement.

    Proposals for Change.
  • Continue to invest in technological assets along the border;
  • Crack down on misuse of passports and visas to commit fraud and expand criminal penalties associated with such offenses;
  • Increase existing penalties and sanctions, with particular emphasis to immigration-related crimes;
  • Continue to support border relief grants to help fund state, local, and tribal agencies grappling with border issues;
  • Mandate increased civil rights and civil liberties training for Border Patrol officers; and
  • Address critical detention issues, including expanding the use of alternatives to detention.
  • Accountability for Businesses that Break the Law by Undermining American Workers and Exploiting Undocumented Workers

    The Challenge. Create an effective electronic employee verification system which ensures that only individuals authorized to work are hired for jobs in the United States.

    Principles for Moving Forward. Effective worksite enforcement measures must produce swift action against those who hire illegal labor and exploit workers, including more stringent penalties for those who violate the law. Employers must be equipped with reliable tools, such as mandatory electronic employment verification that builds off of the existing E-Verify system with improved fraud detection.

    Proposals for Change.
  • Phase in mandatory use of the E-Verify system in conjunction with a program that requires the undocumented population to get right with the law;
  • Establish a standardized process for efficiently reviewing cases when the E-Verify system is unable to confirm a worker's authorization status;
  • Increase civil penalties for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers, violate anti-discrimination provisions, or engage in retaliation against employees; and
  • Develop a biometric identifier for verifying employment authorization.
  • Strengthening Our Economic Competitiveness by Creating a Legal Immigration System that Reflects Our Values and Meets Our Diverse Needs

    The Challenge. Existing policies provide limited avenues for talented and industrious individuals to work and reside in the United States.

    Principles for Moving Forward. Make changes to the legal immigration system to meet our diverse needs. This would include encouraging top foreign talent in priority fields to stay in the U.S. after their post-graduate study at American universities by allowing select graduate students to obtain a green card. Make it easier for foreign businessmen to come to the United States to start companies and create jobs by providing more visas for immigrant entrepreneurs. Require American employers to pay foreign workers fair wages and to only use foreign workers when U.S. workers are not available. Reform the current agriculture worker program by passing and implementing the AgJOBS Act, which would provide farms a legal way to hire the foreign workers they rely on and a path for those workers to earn legal status. And finally, reform our family-based immigration system to reunite families in a timely and humane manner.

    Proposals for Change.
  • Encourage foreign students to stay in the U.S. and contribute to our economy by stapling a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), PhDs and select STEM Masters Degrees students;
  • Pass the DREAM Act to allow young people who were brought to the U.S. as minors to earn legal status;
  • Create a start-up Visa that would allow foreign entrepreneurs who receive financing from U.S. investors to come to the U.S. to start their businesses, and remain permanently if their companies create jobs for American workers and generate revenue;
  • Change the categories and per country caps for family and employment-based visas to ensure that high-skilled immigrants are able to remain in the U.S. permanently and U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are able to reunite with their families more quickly;
  • Make changes to the H-2A temporary agriculture worker program to balance the needs of businesses and worker rights;
  • Strengthen the H-1B visa program to fill the need for high-skilled workers when American employees are not available, increase worker protections, and improve enforcement mechanisms, and
  • Establish a new, small and targeted temporary workers program for lower skilled, non-seasonal, non-agricultural workers to be hired when no American worker is available.
  • Comment. American employers should be able to hire as many foreign workers as they need if suitable American employees are not available, but the present system of continuously raising the number of visas available for foreign employees just perpetuates the problem. We can reduce the need for foreign workers by encouraging and assisting Americans to get the training and education needed to do the work presently being done by foreign employees. This is especially necessary now. The unemployment rate for October of this year was 9.0%[36]. The Blueprint should address the need to provide additional employment for Americans and reduce dependence on foreign workers.

    Responsibility from People who are Living in the United States Illegally

    The Challenge. National security and economic prosperity depend on knowing who resides in our country and creating opportunities for them to join the legal economy.

    Comment: In most cases, if the fingerprints of undocumented aliens are not in FBI, police, or CIA files, we have to rely on what the aliens say and the documents they present to establish their true identities. If this problem is not resolved before a legalization program is established, we will be giving lawful status and the ability to travel in and out of the United States freely to millions of people without knowing who they really are or where they are from.

    Principles for Moving Forward. Fixing our broken immigration system requires holding those living here illegally responsible for their actions. They must get right with the law before they can earn lawful status.

    Proposals for Change. Require undocumented immigrants to register and submit to rigorous security check and verification of eligibility, including submitting their fingerprints for criminal and national security background checks.

    Comment. How do you do a security check or a background investigation on someone if you do not know who he is or where he is from? Realistically, the only possibility is to match the alien's fingerprints to prints that are on file with the FBI, police, or CIA; and the value of a match depends on whether the true identity of the person was known when the fingerprints on file were taken.

    • Individuals will be required to pay a registration fee and a series of fines;
    • Individuals will have to learn English and basic American civics and demonstrate that they have paid any back taxes;
    • Applicants currently waiting outside the country to become legal permanent residents, as is legally required, would be eligible to receive their visas before individuals in the legalization program could apply for permanent residence. That is, illegal immigrants who complete all the requirements of the legalization program will have to go to the back of the line.

    Comment. This only helps the people who are in line before the legalization program begins. The people who get in line after the legalization applicants have filed their applications will be standing in line behind them, and someone at the back of that line could have ten million legalization applicants in front of him.

    over-immigration/? scp=9&sq=immigration%20views%20presidential%20hopefuls&st=cse


    10 at pp. 5-6. Sheriff Arpaio rose to prominence in Arizona by forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and by leading aggressive raids to round up illegal immigrants.

    About The Author

    Nolan Rappaport was an immigration counsel on the House Judiciary Committee. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals. He also has been a policy advisor for the DHS Office of Information Sharing and Collaboration under a contract with TKC Communications, and spent time in private practice as an immigration lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson. He is retired now, but he welcomes part time and temporary work.

    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.