Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Open forum: Immigration issue will be factor in presidential election

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Even by the low standards of presidential campaigns, the issue of immigration has been badly served in the 2008 race. Candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike, have been striking poses and offering prescriptions that sound tough but will not solve the problems that we are facing with illegal immigrants.

They have distorted or disowned their pasts and attacked one another ferociously. Voters deserve much better than what these candidates have given them.

Before voters pick a candidate and a president, they should insist on serious answers to questions like these:

*What should be the role of immigrant labor in our economy?

*How does the country maximizes its benefits and lessen its ill effects?

*Once the border is fortified, what happens to the 12 million illegal immigrants already here? Should they be expelled or allowed to assimilate? How?

*What about the companies that hire them?

The first thing to know about the immigration debate is that it is not much of a debate. The candidates speak essentially with one voice, calling for a bristling border and stiffer penalties against companies that hire the undocumented. Some call for new instruments of law and order, like tamper-proof ID cards.

There is wide support for stricter enforcement. Not many people favor the underground economy.

The immigration issues in this country will be a major factor in the presidential elections.

Al Eisner, Wheaton