NOW that the race for the White House is officially on as the two major parties have settled on their candidates, what kind of importance to they attach to the issue of immigration reform?
A good place to figure this all-important question out is by visiting their campaign websites and going to their positions on various issues. Barack Obama's was easily enough to find, as it came alphabetically under "immigration," but John McCain, a champion of comprehensive reform in the Senate prior to his run for the presidency, lays his position out under the header "border security." See what aspiring to a higher office can do to a politician!
Anyway, Obama's fairly detailed platform makes his position clear - he's all for comprehensive immigration reform.
"Barack Obama has played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform.
Obama believes the immigration issue has been exploited by politicians to divide the nation rather than find real solutions," his site says.
"This divisiveness has allowed the illegal immigration problem to worsen, with borders that are less secure than ever and an economy that depends on millions of workers living in the shadows. Obama believes that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a complete solution that secures our border, enforces our laws and reaffirms our heritage as a nation of immigrants.
America has always been a nation of immigrants. There are millions of people living in the shadows who would like to fully embrace our values and become full members of our democracy. For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must encourage them to come out of hiding and get right with the law. Barack Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, not violate the law, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."
Obama also wants to "preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry. Obama believes we need additional Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence."
What of McCain? Unless we've missed it, his platform makes no mention at all of the leading role he has played in the Senate - along with his Democratic colleague Senator Edward Kennedy, whose name really wouldn't go down too well among all those conservatives McCain seeks to court!
The senator says on his site, "I have always believed that our border must be secure and that the federal government has utterly failed in its responsibility to ensure that it is secure. If we have learned anything from the recent immigration debate, it is that Americans have little trust that their government will honor a pledge to do the things necessary to make the border secure.
"As president, I will secure the border. I will restore the trust Americans should have in the basic competency of their government. A secure border is an essential element of our national security. Tight border security includes not just the entry and exit of people, but also the effective screening of cargo at our ports and other points of entry . . .
"Border security and our failed immigration system are more examples of an ailing Washington culture in need of reform to regain the trust of Americans. In too many areas - from immigration and pork barrel spending to Social Security, health care, energy security and tax relief - business-as-usual politics prevents addressing the important challenges facing our nation."
What about the undocumented that McCain has often spoken so eloquently about? Like we said, unless we missed it, there's no reference on his website.
Hopefully, if he wins the White House, that will change.