Immigration Reform 2013: Republican Platform Not Aligned With American Values

The Republican Party has begun to realize that they cannot hope to win elections, national or state, without considering the needs of minorities. When one looks at the demographics of the 2012 presidential election, it is clear that Obama enjoyed a solid lead over challenger Mitt Romney when it came to garnering the vote of African Americans, Asian Americans, and an emerging, important ethnic group: Latino Americans. With the latter group, the topic of immigration has become exceedingly important, especially illegal immigration. Although the title of the article may already show a jump to conclusions ("Obama Wins Re-Election, Clinches Latino Vote"), let’s review the current Republican Party platform for immigration overall.

According to OnTheIssues.org, a website dedicated to detailing the positions of different politicians on different issues, the Republican Party seeks to do a few things about immigration reform. Their current platform advocates for the use of the E-Verify system to be mandatory (Pennsylvania has already passed a law requiring public contractors in the state to use this system to ensure that all their employees are legal U.S. residents), using biometric data to track foreign visitors (a system known as US-VISIT, which is used in airports and land border crossings to ensure that the government can keep track of all visitors to the country), allowing only legal immigrants into the country while emphasizing border security, doing away with amnesty as it encourages illegal immigration, reforming the immigration system to emphasize family, and focusing immigration on needed skills (H-1B visas to draw high-tech, skilled workers into good positions).

While these positions are sound and justified to a degree, it does not change the fact that the way the Republican Party has been treating immigrants — both legal and illegal — does not reveal friendliness. In a response that many might consider a mixed bag, Republicans voted to increase the number of H-1B visas while decreasing legal immigration overall. The legislation, known as the STEM Act, was created to encourage high-skilled immigrant workers to enter the country and procure specialized positions. While encouraging STEM (science, technology, engineering, and matehmatics) immigrants to enter the country, the legislation would have cut from the Diversity Visa Program, which accepts immigrants from countries that do not normally send many people to the United States, along with visas overall. While the Republican Party may have had good intentions, it limits the chance for others who want to come to the United States for the same reason that many Americans’ ancestors did: to provide a better life and education for their children and future generations to come. It also did not help that many states with a Republican majority (Virginia and Pennsylvania, for example) in their legislature advocated voter-fraud laws that also disproportionately disallowed minorities from exercising their right to vote.

As far as illegal immigration is concerned, Republicans have never been big advocators for it. Whenever immigration was brought up as a topic of debate during the Republican primaries in the fall of 2011, there was almost never more discussion about building a fence and deportation in one place at one time. It also didn’t help that during the presidential debates Obama slammed Romney over his thoughts about self-deportation.

While Republicans hope to reshape their platform on immigration to appeal to minority voters, especially Latino Americans, their current reforms are not enough. They have unfortunately painted themselves as supportive only of the emigration of high-skilled workers, despite the fact that the promise of the American dream should be for all who reach her shores. They cannot win unless they look at their platform and make some tough decisions that will bring more comprehensive reform.

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Anjana Sreedhar

Anjana is a passionate NYU student studying International Relations and Gender and Sexuality. She is also a PolicyMic writing intern who enjoys following the news and hopes to work in international development, particularly improving reproductive health of women and girls. When not studying, working, or researching, you'll find her editing for the NYU Journal of Politics and International Affairs, writing for NYU Generasian and Washington Square News, or watching Downton Abbey with a cup of masala chai.

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