2012 Election Commentary: Neither Candidate Has Proposed a Real Solution for Illegal Immigration

Abstract: Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have mentioned illegal immigration. On Friday, President Obama even granted partial amnesty to some illegal immigrants. However, neither candidate has really delved into the issue.

On Friday, President Barack Obama announced he had signed an executive order permitting some young, undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally. According to the Chicago Tribune, Obama's decision will allow illegal immigrants who are younger than 30 and have lived in the U.S. since they were children or teenagers can apply for temporary work permits. Whatever his motivations, the president's decision has made the topic an important one for his campaign. As an independent, it forces me to re-examine my views on illegal immigration.

As Obama's announcement suggests, illegal immigrants are a varied group. Many of these individuals entered the U.S. years ago and have developed roots within a specific community. Some of these people came to the U.S. as children and have spent a good portion of their lives here.

In other cases, adults who are undocumented immigrants have kids who were born in the U.S. and are American citizens. If our government simply deports everyone, it will have significant ramifications not only for the adults who intentionally immigrated to the country illegally but also for large numbers of other, innocent stakeholders. Any national immigration policy should be sensitive to that fact.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, there were approximately 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. in 2009. While a large majority of these people are from Latin America, more than 1 million hail from Asia, Africa, Europe or Canada. Some reside in cities and others in rural areas. I think it would be difficult to devise any cost effective method (legal or illegal) that would allow authorities to identify and deport a large percentage of these individuals.

I have only to look at a map of the U.S. to notice how difficult it would be to secure our southern border. A 2007 article in the San Francisco Chronicle estimated 700 miles of fencing along the border would cost as much as $49 billion. Given the entire southern border is 1,952 miles long, that would translate to as much as $137 billion to fence off the whole area.

Any national immigration policy must address these three issues in some detail. They are complex conundrums that will not yield to executive fiat or to facile legislation. I am still waiting for either presidential candidate to be honest with me and acknowledge the difficulties he would face in effectively dealing with illegal immigration.

-- Anthony Hopper

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