An Immigration Grade Red Herring
SAN DIEGO -- The 2012 presidential election will likely be about jobs and the economy -- and not about immigration.
Just don't tell that to NumbersUSA, a nativist organization that recently graded 12 committed or prospective presidential candidates, including President Obama, on their immigration-related views, policies and statements. It was not pretty. No grade inflation here.
This outfit wants to reduce the number of immigrants taken in by the United States to what it was before the immigration reform act of 1965 -- about 250,000 annually. That figure is about a quarter of what it is now, and one way to get there is to make it virtually impossible for people to legally immigrate if they aren't the child or spouse of a U.S. citizen.
The only good thing about groups like this is that they put the lie to the claim that restrictionists have no problem with those who want to immigrate legally. Sure they don't. Just so long as those people remain in their own country.
What NumbersUSA really has a problem with is the current crop of presidential candidates. The best grade went to Michele Bachmann, but it was only a B-minus. Then came Tim Pawlenty with a C-plus and Herman Cain with a C-minus. Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin both got D's. Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry each got a D-minus. Ron Paul, Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum got F's. The underachiever was President Obama, who got an F-minus.
Candidates lost points for opposing efforts to change the 14th Amendment so that U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants are no longer afforded U.S. citizenship, not pushing for limits on legal immigration, and questioning the wisdom of state laws such as those in Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina that enlist local police in the enforcement of federal immigration law.
Romney's popularity with this group probably took a hit because he has a soft spot for legal immigrants. Coming from a Mormon family that migrated to Mexico in the late 1800s to escape persecution, he has complained that we make it too difficult for people to come to the United States legally to study or work -- and virtually impossible for them to remain here after their visas expire. Like many CEOs, he thinks we should literally staple a green card to the diploma of every foreign student who graduates from a university in the United States.
Gingrich might well have been hurt by the fact that, as he has said, he supports a middle ground between amnesty and the forcible removal of millions of people. As he said in the New Hampshire GOP debate two months ago, he rejects the suggestion that "you either have to ship 20 million people out of America or legalize all of them." He has also dismissed the idea of mass deportations as "heartless."
Perry no doubt fell out of sorts for opposing more fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, declaring that Arizona's immigration law was not a good fit for Texas, and signing a law that granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
Huntsman didn't help himself with this group when he declared his support for the DREAM Act, which would swap legal status for college attendance or military service. The former governor of Utah said recently: "I believe that young kids when they're dragged here to the United States have no say over their journey. They have no say over their destiny."
The big surprise is that Obama got an F-minus. If you disregard what the president says and focus on what he does, he shows himself to be every bit the immigration restrictionist. After all, they have those on the left too. They're often motivated by a concern that increased immigration or efforts to legalize the undocumented undermine unions and produce unfair competition for low-skilled U.S. workers.
That sounds like Obama. Under his administration, the Department of Homeland Security has deported in excess of 1 million illegal immigrants and it intends to get rid of more by using the Secure Communities program to rope local and state police into the enforcement of immigration law.
Meanwhile, anyone who believes that legal immigration is a positive for our country and that we need more of it, not less, might want to take another look at some of the Republicans running for president. If an organization as regressive as this thinks they're subpar, these candidates may be doing something right.
(c) 2011, The Washington Post Writers Group