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Is the Media Missing the Point of the Immigration Debate?

Using polling data as its foundation, Rasmussen Reports argues that as Barack Obama and John McCain debate immigration, the media misses the issues Americans care about.

Current conventional media wisdom holds that since Obama and McCain both support a path to citizenship, voters won't worry about immigration this Fall. But, Rasmussen argues that the real debate begins with the details of the path. According to polling, most Americans want a sustainable plan that meets the basic goal of reducing illegal immigration in the future. In addition, Americans overwhelmingly want immigrants to embrace American culture and language.

Last Saturday, Obama and McCain spoke about immigration in front of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. To find out what they said, and for more on the candidates' immigration records,


McCain addressed his immigration record, which includes a Senate bill he authored but later rejected. He said: "Many Americans, with good cause, did not believe us when we said we would secure our borders, and so we failed in our efforts. We must prove to them that we can and will secure our borders first." McCain also touted plans for lower taxes, which would benefit Latino small businesses.

Obama also spoke about securing the borders, but said: "If we think that a wall is the sole solution to the problem, then we're not thinking it through." In the Senate, Obama has proposed a system to help employers check eligibility, legislation that would ensure immigration fees are reasonable as well as improve the accuracy and speed of FBI background checks. Obama has also introduced amendments that support keeping immigrant families together.

Do you want to hear more from the candidates regarding how they plan on putting immigrants on the path to citizenship? What sort of plan would you like to see?


Join The Conversation
CMG CMG 9 years
You are ALL missing the core point here, just like the media and the candidates. We live in an increasingly globalizing world. One of you keeps referring to the US being an ATM for immigrants. Well, if that's the case, then the US is using developing countries as a temp agency because US multinational corporations go into countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia looking for cheap labor, relaxed environmental laws, and cheap natural resources so that US consumers can continue to pay cheaper prices on their products. Many people have argued (although Saskia Sassen started this discussion in the late 80s) that US presence via multinational corporations in other countries doesn't inhibit immigration by creating jobs like we used to think. It ENCOURAGES immigration by paying low wages, thus supporting the substandard living conditions that push people out of their countries. The question we need to be asking ourselves is how to handle migration to the US from other countries while engaging in a globalized market. We have to be realistic here and recognize that the US cannot participate in a global market, utilize cheap labor an resources from abroad, AND create stricter borders to stop migration. It's hypocritical and inconsistent and unrealistic. As consumers, we participate in the globalized economy by buying products from abroad, and, let's face it, there are very few products that we purchased that are produced in the US exclusively. Globalization is a reality of our world today, and immigration is a consequence of it. I think the candidates need to talk about immigration within that context if they want to get to the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, the majority of the US population doesn't understand the issue fully because they are too busy being undereducated on the topic and xenophobic.
jessy777 jessy777 9 years
"Also, people coming through Ellis Island weren't illegal, they were processed through immigration and given permission to enter the country." Agreed. My great-great grandfather came into this country from Ireland in 1857 when he was 17. He was processed into this country and given the legal right to remain. 6 years later he married and began having children, 51 years later my grandfather was born and 70 years after that I was born. The history isn't that hold but the fact remain the same. The history isn't that old to remember that my story and this country start with immigration but we need to find a path that will take into account the new forms of immigration that exist today. There is no longer a single boat bringing in hundreds of people that are documented at the port. Today people come into this country in a myriad number of ways and the government should take that into account when looking at immigration reform.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
EJ: Thanks for such an organized reply, I love order! Sorry this is long. A: No one is happy about having to work for a living, but you do what you have to. Dissatisfaction is a great motivator. I’m from a hard-working, blue collar family (on both sides). B: I don’t have any hard information on illegal immigration from any other parts of the world, just a few TV news and talk radio stories. That doesn’t quantify anything. One example, though, is an organization that was running a birth clinic, like a boarding house, and advertising in Asia for women to come to Los Angeles and have their children here, which would make them legal citizens and provide a toehold for the family. C: See item A. If people want to eat, they should work. America isn’t a “class system” in the way people often imply: it’s not based on heredity, but hard work and ingenuity. (Yes, there are exceptions. Paris Hilton leaps to mind. But even she “works” by making films and having a line of handbags, etc.) D: I didn’t mean to be name-calling, but I took issue with your statement: “…you have no reason, other than mental incapacity to be considered a 'low-skilled' worker.” Not everyone is college material, or even skilled trade material. I don’t think that’s an excuse to marginalize them. There’s a young fellow at the deli in my local supermarket who has some kind of incapacity (which I am not qualified to identify), he takes great pride in his work. BTW, “Yard ladies” are the playground attendants, generally at grade schools. One of my friends actually does that, they were recently unionized. She’s a real character, and treats all the kids like her own. As for illegal immigrants taking low-skilled school-based jobs, I was at a meeting last Saturday and the local’s Executive Director said that our local is 60-75% Spanish-speaking. E: I don’t know how asking prisoners to work is elitist, IMO it’s giving them an opportunity to leave prison with a little bit of money set aside. (I don’t mind being called elitist, though, I embrace it.) Hopefully that would reduce recidivism—they won’t have to rob someone as soon as they get out so they can buy food. I didn’t say we should let murderers out and give them machetes, there are lots of non-violent criminals. I agree with you, they should also be used on a lot of infrastructure projects like roadside clean-up and repair. Obviously there has to be some kind of review process, and I didn’t say it would be a complete answer to the need for agricultural workers. I believe a very limited guest worker program might work. (i.e., limited term, must return between stints, can’t bring family members) There is no one simple answer to any problem. I think you don’t realize how many other kids of jobs illegals fill, though, because they’re relatively invisible: bus boys, car washes, day labor, gardening, mobile food merchants (taco trucks, ice cream carts), fast food, roadside vendors of all kinds, swap meets. There are lots of employers who don’t check peoples’ status. Oh, by the way, fake papers = identify theft. It’s a crime. And my father’s side of the family are the “recent” immigrants—back in the (IIRC) very early 1800’s. It wasn’t against the law back then. I don’t have time for thorough research, but Wikipedia lists the first immigration legislation as being the Naturalization Act of 1790. UnDave: My folks are from Loogootee and Jasper, Indiana! ( : high five : )
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
Ejmcmis - UH, sorry, my great-greats weren't illegal, they came through immigration with all the paperwork, etc, everyone else did at that time. (my mom's family has copies of everything) Also, people comming through Ellis Island weren't illegal, they were processed through immigration and given permission to enter the country. Some people were actually sent back to their countries of origin from Ellis Island.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Since they got 'here first' don't they have the right to claim it? Not any more right than we have for conquering it. The point is they aren't necessarily direct descendants of the land, they migrated here as well, just earlier than we did. If they failed to keep ahold of it, that isn't our problem. We need to do what we can to make sure we don't lose it to the next large wave of immigrants.
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
the two issues we are discussing here (citizenship vs. illegal workers) are related, but on a much higher level. remove the incentives for illegals to come to america for work, and you will see far less illegals coming to america. it's that easy. and again, this responsibility is with the employers who are hiring them - and the government that is not punishing the employers. politicians are talking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue, as i believe raciccarone pointed out much earlier in the discussion. and as usual, the easiest solution is not going to be the one we go about implementing.
Bisque Bisque 9 years
One of my biggest issues with immigration in the U.S. is that my family had to wait(and is still waiting) for our immigration status to be approved. We all submitted the necessary paperwork, paid the necessary amounts(lots) of money and lawyers fees for more than 2 decades. We were petitioned in 1987, a month after I was born, but we're still waiting. (Although the embassy did tell us my father will be approved next year, but I'll be 22 by then, not a minor so we have to go through a couple of more hurdles)
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Oh let's just get the inevitable over with globalize under one government, make all Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens Representatives and just be one big happy family. TeeHee!!!!
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 9 years
What there needs to be with the 'reform' (gosh, I HATE that word, but there's no better way to but it), is an eventual path (that doesn't drain your life savings jessy777) to citizenship. Have the people jump through hoops, ok, I get it, even though I don't agree with it. Everyone's back generations didn't have to jump through the hoops the way the current illegal immigrants do. . . . Oh, and UnDave35, "Illegal immigrants don't necessarily want to become a part of this great nation, just take from it." Take from it how ... as yesteryear pointed out "actually stiletta, illegals do pay taxes. many have false papers that allow them to get regular, "over the table", jobs where they get a normal paycheck - just like you and i. payroll taxes like social security and medicare are deducted... but the ironic thing is, they are not entitled to any of that because their SSNs are fake. so, in fact, they are paying into a system that they are never going to use. ive even heard arguments that they are helping social security! just sayin'"
lovelie lovelie 9 years
I understand where you are coming from Ejmcmis...but this isn't the 19th century. There have been so many systems implemented since the great migrations of many or our security, income taxes, property taxes, the list goes on. With the implementation of such systems, citizens need to have a secure place in our nation to not only donate to these systems, but also to receive the benefits of these systems. Having large amounts of illegal immigrants without any accountability does not help anyone.
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 9 years
MartiniLush You're missing the point of what I'm saying. When your great-great grandparents' or what have you came over they were just as illegal. THAT IS MY POINT.
jessy777 jessy777 9 years
I absolutely agree we are a nation of immigrants and shouldn't throw stones about immigration in general. My problem is the number of illegal immigrants that come into this country (thereby breaking the law) and want the government to give them a free pass. My younger sister married a non-citizen and together they have spent the last year and a half trying to get him a visa to even come live with her in the U.S., and it has been a difficult. They have drained their savings for the lawyers, documentation fees and the stress is weighing down what should be a happy time for them. She hasn't seen her husband in person for a year and we can only hope that he will be here by the end of summer but the U.S. is limiting visas from Europe and Asia. I don't care where you came from, we have paths to citizenship like every other nation and everyone should have to follow it, if not you can't stay. Building a fence isn't going to stop immigration and the U.S. is so wrapped up in the economies of other nations we can't quarantine ourselves off completely. With everything my family has gone through any "easy" path to citizenship will make me angry, whether that is right or wrong of me.
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
Ejmcmis - I think lovlie has it one here is saying we should stop immigration, but rather that people wanting to come here go through the LEGAL process to do so. My father was an immigrant and my husband is an immigrant and my mother's family were immigrants way far back, but all came here through LEGAL means.
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 9 years
UnDave35 Since they got 'here first' don't they have the right to claim it?
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 9 years
The Alamo... ...And since 'we're going there' all of the south western US belonged to Mexico, so yeah, you could extrapolate that the Mexicans and Central Americans are 'just going to their ancient homelands' ... they're just going home. . That is celabrated because we were the victors
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Ejmcmis- Where do you think the native americans came from? They aren't necessarily originally from here, they just got here first.
syako syako 9 years
"How is it ok to force immigrants from other countries to go through the long, tedious process (as Syako pointed out) to become a citizen and let immigrants from Mexico bypass this system because they provide cheap labor for businesses" :notworthy:
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Where are you grandparents from? Seymour and Columbus, IN Where are you great-grandparents from? Rock Island, IL and NY, NY Where are you great-great grandparents from? Not a clue, my leneage changed his name on the boat ride over. The point is. When he came over, he did so to become and American. This isn't about who is immigrating into our society, but how and why. Illegal immigrants don't necessarily want to become a part of this great nation, just take from it. Why is it that such a hard concept. Do I agree that our immigration laws need to be changed, yes. Do I want a way to protect myself from the people who choose to bypass the system, for whatever the reason? yes.
lovelie lovelie 9 years
Ejmcmis- I don't think Undave was implying that the influx of immigration has to stop, I think what he, and many others, feel that they should have to go through legal entry to gain citizenship. How is it ok to force immigrants from other countries to go through the long, tedious process (as Syako pointed out) to become a citizen and let immigrants from Mexico bypass this system because they provide cheap labor for businesses?
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 9 years
raciccarone Yes I dare, and yes, that's why it bothers me so much, the issue of illegal immigration. . ... Again, for all of you reading through the comments, stop and think for a moment ... Where are you grandparents from? Where are you great-grandparents from? Where are you great-great grandparents from? . Do you see where I'm going with this? Unless your Native American (and pure Native American} you shouldn't really sprout much should you? . ALL of you for the matter, it was ok for for your previous generations to come in, but now that you're in and settled you want to stop the flow? Isn't that a little greedy of all of you? . Just look at Ellis Island records. Listen, this country was founded on immigrants and illegal immigration at that. What if the Native Americans would have built a fence? And we as illegal immigrants kicked the Native Americans out to crappy lands that we not of use to the country. . And since 'we're going there' all of the south western US belonged to Mexico, so yeah, you could extrapolate that the Mexicans and Central Americans are 'just going to their ancient homelands' ... they're just going home. . . ... Do you see how ludicrous this is.
syako syako 9 years
*is it the I got too excited. Martini - tell me about it!!! :oy:
syako syako 9 years
is the angola prison rodeo :P ;)
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
syako, i am with you! With all the money we have paid out for my husband's immigration paperwork and all the time spent is a very frustrating system as it currently exists!
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
stiletta, i am competing in a rodeo next weekend. you are free to join us and try to tame me. you can even wear your pumps instead of spurs.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
Ejmcmis! How dare you use this "history" against us!
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