AS millions of voters went to the polls on Super Tuesday across the country, Kelly Fincham, executive director of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR), says there are now positive trends in favor of comprehensive immigration reform no matter who wins the White House in November.With Senator John McCain leading in the Republican race and Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama neck and neck on the Democratic side, the omens are good, says Fincham."Having these three individuals in the lead is good news for those of us who support fair and balanced immigration reform. And seeing Romney's campaign in difficulty is even better news," said Fincham.Both Obama and Clinton have made it clear in recent presidential debates that they favor comprehensive reform of the immigration system. They both agree its necessary to increase border security and create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented residents of the U.S. Both candidates favor an electronic employment verification system.They differ, however, on whether or not to allow the undocumented to obtain a driver's license. "It's a public safely concern and we are better off if we grant licenses because we don't want a bunch of hit and run drivers out there because they are worried about being deported," said Obama in last week's CNN Democratic presidential debate. Clinton disagreed. "It puts them at risk because it is clear evidence that they are here illegally," she said. On the Republican side, McCain believes strongly in a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes a path to legalizing the undocumented and one that will meet labor demands. Although as of late he may have put more emphasis on border security, he was the Republican steering wheel behind the 2006 comprehensive Senate bill, named the Kennedy/McCain bill, which offered a chance at legalization for the undocumented.In 2006 Clinton voted for the immigration overhaul bill that if passed would have legalized million of immigrants, including an estimated 50,000 Irish. She also voted in favor of the bill to create a 700-mile of border fence. Clinton co-sponsored a bill to help qualifying undocumented people pay in-state college tuition and eventually gain permanent status. She also gave the thumbs up on a proposal that would have legalized farm workers who were out of status.Obama, however, has not been lacking on the issue. He has gone on record to say he would address immigration reform in his first year in office. He was one of four members of the Senate deeply involved in negotiations on the 2006 immigration reform bill. He plans to reduce backlogs of green card applications and step up the process and make an immigration system responsive to labor demands. Obama also backed the Secure Fence Act. He co-sponsored a bill to allow states to offer undocumented immigrants in-state tuition.McCain has for the most part stood his ground as his party members and GOP candidates for the White House attacked his immigration proposals. He said he believes in securing the borders before legalizing immigrants. McCain also backs a guest worker program for workers who are undocumented. On the other end of the spectrum, he has requested penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants."The positive tone struck by Clinton and Obama during last week's presidential debate seemed to set the tone for the debate for the three front runners. Senator McCain, as a co-author of Kennedy/ McCain, is clearly in favor of fair and equitable immigration reform," said Fincham."Both himself and Senator Clinton have supported the ILIR, and it's almost an embarrassment of riches as none of the front runners in this election are adopting the positions of immigrant hater Tom Tancredo - who has already dropped out- and Romney, who is hopefully on his way out," said Fincham on Tuesday.Now that it is becoming clearer that one of the three pro immigration candidates may very well be the next commander in chief, Fincham believes that immigration reform will be dealt with sooner rather than later once the new President takes his or her seat at the oval office."I'm far more optimistic about the chances for immigration reform taking place within the first term of the incoming president, but if you had asked me that three months ago I would have said no. Now the tone seems to have changed."
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