by Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES — Although Sen. Barack Obama is riding on the wave of an 11-state victory, the Democratic nomination race is still neck and neck.
Where do the presidential candidates of the Democratic Party stand on the issue of immigration? The IRC Americas Program, a nonprofit policy studies center, in their website presents the positions of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the issue in order to distinguish between them.
The website points out the similarities in conviction between Clinton and Obama, which includes the shared belief that the country needs a comprehensive immigration reform that will pave the way to legalization for the approximately 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, given certain conditions such as learning English and paying a fine.
Both Democratic candidates support tougher border security measures, and stricter workplace enforcement which must be combined with legalization and labor rights.
With regard guestworker programs, Clinton opposes one that “exploits workers and creates a supply of cheap labor that undermines the wages of U.S. workers,” while Obama states that the job must first be made available to Americans at a decent wage with benefits.
The candidates differ on their views regarding making driver’s licenses available to illegal residents – Clinton opposes this measure, while Obama supports it.
Following are some points, as published in the IRC website, of Clinton’s and Obama’s general positions and statements regarding some specific areas on the immigration issue:
Barack Obama on Immigration
General Position: “What we have to do is create a comprehensive solution to the problem. As president I will make sure that we finally have the kind of border security that we need. Employers have to be held accountable. When we do those things, we can take the illegal aliens who are here, get them out of the shadows, make sure that they are subject to a stiff penalty, make sure that they’re learning English, and go to the back of the line so they’re not getting an advantage over people who came here legally.”
“We’ve got to fix a broken immigration system not just for the undocumented but for legal immigrants. Because the backlogs are horrendous, the fees have been increased and doubled and tripled, and as a consequence more and more people are having difficulty just trying to reunify their families even if they’re going through the legal pathways, and that puts more pressure on people to go into the illegal system. That is something we’re going to try to pass.”
I think it’s possible for us to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. That’s what we’ve always been and that’s what we have to continue to be. And that’s why I’ve worked in the Senate and will work hard as president to make sure that we’ve got comprehensive immigration reform that has strong border security. We need to make sure that it’s orderly, that we don’t have thousands of people pouring over our borders or overstaying our visas.”
Employment: “I think that if they are illegal, then they should not be able to work in this country. That is part of the principle of comprehensive reform, which we’re going to crack down on employers who are hiring them and taking advantage of them. But I also want to give them a pathway, so that they can earn citizenship, earn a legal status, start learning English, pay a significant fine, and go to the back of the line. But they can then stay here and they can have the ability to enforce a minimum wage that they’re paid, make sure the worker safety laws are available, make sure that they can join a union.”
We have to make sure that employers are held accountable, because right now employers are taking advantage of undocumented workers. And we’ve got to give a pathway to citizenship. But people have to earn it. They’re going to have to pay a fine. They’ve got to make sure that they’re learning English. They’ve got to go to the back of the line so that they’re not rewarded for having broken the law.”
: “Before any guestworker is hired, the job must be made available to Americans at a decent wage with benefits. Employers then need to show that there are no Americans to take these jobs. I am not willing to take it on faith that there are jobs that Americans will not take. There has to be a showing. If this guestworker program is to succeed, it must be properly calibrated to make certain that these are jobs that cannot be filled by Americans, or that the guestworkers provide particular skills we can’t find in this country.”
Driver’s licenses: There is a public safety concern [with denying driver's licenses to illegal immigrants]. We can make sure that drivers who are illegal come out of the shadows, that they can be tracked, that they are properly trained, and that will make our roads safer. That doesn’t negate the need for us to reform illegal immigration.”
When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety. That was my intention. The problem we have here is not driver’s licenses. Undocumented workers do not come here to drive. They’re here to work. Instead of being distracted by what has now become a wedge issue, let’s focus on actually solving the problem that this administration, the Bush administration, had done nothing about it.”
The Senate Immigration Bill: Senator Obama played a role in drafting the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate passed before the 109th Congress adjourned. The bill, which President Bush supports, would provide more funds and technology for border security and prevent employers from skirting our laws by hiring illegal immigrants. The bill also would provide immigrants who are now contributing, responsible members of society an opportunity to remain in the country and earn citizenship. But not all illegal immigrants would be guaranteed the right to remain in the U.S. under this proposal: they would first have to pay a substantial fine and back taxes, learn English, satisfy a work requirement, and pass a criminal background check.
Obama offered three amendments that were included in the Senate bill. The first amendment would strengthen the requirement that a job be offered at a prevailing wage to American workers before it is offered to a guestworker. The second amendment would make it simple, but mandatory, for employers to verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. And the third amendment would authorize $3 million a year for the FBI to improve the speed and accuracy of the background checks required for immigrants seeking to become citizens.
Hillary Clinton on Immigration
General Position: According to her website: “She believes comprehensive reform must have as essential ingredients a strengthening of our borders, greater cross-cooperation with our neighbors, strict but fair enforcement of our laws, federal assistance to our state and local governments, strict penalties for those who exploit undocumented workers, and a path to earned legal status for those who are here, working hard, paying taxes, respecting the law, and willing to meet a high bar.”
“I deeply regret the way the Republicans are politicizing this issue. They are trying to outdo each other in basically demeaning and attacking those who are here in our country—yes, without documentation—but who are often doing the work that allows raising their families and making a contribution. The answer is comprehensive immigration reform. We have to keep working toward it. Yes, we’ve got to have tougher border security. We do have to crack down on employers who exploit and employ undocumented people. We’ve got to do more to help local communities bear the costs of it. Because they don’t set immigration laws. We’ve got to do more with our neighbors to the south to help them create more economic opportunity for their own people but at the end of the day there has to be an earned path to legalization.”
“I’m in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, which includes tightening our border security, sanctioning employers who employ undocumented immigrants, getting the 12 million or so immigrants out of the shadows. That’s very important to me. After 9/11, we’ve got to know who’s in this country. And then giving them a chance to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and stand in line to be eligible for a legal status in this country.”
: Insists that “employers comply with the law against hiring and exploiting undocumented workers.
Guestworker program: According to the Clinton website: “She opposes a guestworker program that exploits workers and creates a supply of cheap labor that undermines the wages of U.S. workers. Hillary believes all workers deserve safe conditions and decent wages. She supports an Ag Jobs program, which will keep our agricultural industry vibrant while enabling agricultural workers to receive the fair wages and labor protections they ought to receive.”
: Opposes driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform.
“What Gov. Spitzer is trying to do [with immigrant licenses] is fill the vacuum left by the failure to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. We have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of probability. No state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action on immigration reform …. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.”
: “We do need to work with the Congress to get legislation that is comprehensive. I am proud to work with Sen. Menendez on trying to make sure that in the process of doing immigration reform, we don’t separate families, we try to have family unification as one of the goals. So in addition to giving people a path to legalization, we want to make sure their families can come along with them. There does have to be an intensive effort with our friends to the south to see how the United States can once again be a partner, with a relationship based on mutual respect, where we work together to find ways that we can help them address the needs of the people living in countries to the south. Finally, we have to educate the American people about why immigration is as important today as it was when my family came through into Ellis Island.”
(For more info: log on to http://www.americas.irc-online.org/)