Candidates Don’t Talk About Immigration

Mark Cromer, San Francisco Chronicle, October 22, 2008

The presidential and vice presidential debates are behind us and yet after nearly eight cumulative hours of the candidates regurgitating sound bites, the nation has heard nary a word on immigration or the challenges it poses to our future.

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CBS news veteran Bob Schieffer, following the template set by PBS’s Jim Lehrer and Gwen Ifill and NBC’s Tom Brokaw, allowed the candidates to avoid even a single tough question about immigration policy, a subject that both senators are loathe to take on in front of 70 million viewers of all political and ethnic stripes.

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Immigration permeates virtually every domestic problem facing the nation today: health care, education, jobs and the environment; it also factors into national security and foreign policy. Given the size of the foreign-born population in the United States today—more than 40 million—it’s difficult to imagine any policy initiative succeeding that did not first address the fundamentals of immigration.

The candidates have talked about the financial crisis. They’ve talked about job losses and their plans to create new jobs. And yet they have said nothing about the millions of foreign laborers illegally in the United States today that have driven millions of Americans out of a wide range of employment sectors while suppressing wages for citizens still working in those industries.

They have said nothing about the billions of dollars in tax revenues lost to this mammoth underground economy; or of the billions of dollars citizens pay to subsidize it.

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But they have said nothing about the catastrophic impact that mass illegal immigration has had in thousands of public schools in the American Southwest, where school districts have been forced to cope with overcrowded campuses and parents have watched classrooms turned into bilingual education labs at the expense of their own children’s learning.

Both senators have talked studiously about the critical challenges we face in the environment, but have said nothing about America’s surging population—growth fueled almost entirely by immigration and births to immigrants—and the effects that growth has on our natural resources, particularly freshwater supplies.

For either candidate to claim now that they support reducing consumption without also voicing support for slowing our population growth shows they are intellectually dishonest.

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So the question for every informed voter is: What aren’t they telling us?

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