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In Their Own Words: Key Developments in the Immigration Debate

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Despite efforts to downplay the importance of immigration in this election cycle, the debate continues across the country. Here is a round-up of recent key developments in the immigration debate, presented “in their own words”:

  • Speaking before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Senator Barack Obama said: “This election is about the 12 million people living in the shadows, the communities taking immigration enforcement into their own hands. They are counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, and rise above the fear, and rise above the demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform…we cannot deport 12 million people. Instead, we’ll require them to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for citizenship – behind those who came here legally. At the same time, we’ll secure our borders and crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers. That’s how we’ll reconcile our values as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”

  • NDN released the results of their eagerly-anticipated poll of how immigration is playing out in critical “battleground states” (Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico): “In each of these four states, voters: Overwhelmingly support what has been called Comprehensive Immigration Reform, including a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants; Have a positive view of undocumented immigrants, believing that they have come here to work and seek a better life, are not taking jobs from American citizens and are not interested in receiving public handouts; Blame the federal government and business for the broken immigration system, and do not blame the immigrants themselves.”   

  • Bishop John Wester, chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committee on migration condemned recent immigration raids, saying: “The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society. I call upon the Department of Homeland Security and President (George W.) Bush to reconsider the use of these worksite enforcement raids, and without the implementation of necessary human rights protections, to please abandon them. We ask them and the country, including the presidential candidates, to again turn their energies for building support for a comprehensive overhaul of our broken immigration system.”

  • Johnston County, NC Sheriff Steve Bizzell, who was featured prominently in the first general election advertisement for Senator Elizabeth Dole, caused a wave of controversy by: condemning “illegal immigrants for ‘breeding like rabbits’,” calling Mexicans “trashy,” claiming that “illegal immigrants ‘rape, rob and murder’ American citizens,” and asking “How long is it going to be until we’re the minority?” Sheriff Bizzell, who was the President of the N.C. Sheriffs Association, also has promoted harsh policy crackdowns, helping to “make North Carolina one of the most aggressive states in the nation for deporting illegal immigrants.”  

  • The Washington Post highlighted that a status report assessing another notable local immigration crackdown location, Prince William County, VA, found “Fewer than 2 percent of people charged with crimes in Prince William County since the well-publicized crackdown on illegal immigration began in March have turned out to be undocumented, Police Chief Charlie T. Deane told county supervisors yesterday.” The article also highlighted a plummeting lack of trust in the local police department among the Hispanic population, reporting that “97 percent of Hispanics were satisfied with police in 2005. This year, Hispanic satisfaction with police has decreased to 73 percent.”