Thumbnail image for electric warning sign.jpgImmigration has been dubbed the third rail of American politics, along with Social Security, Medicare, gun control, and a variety of other hot-button issues.  To me, it’s more like a downed power line snaking low across the ground and electrocuting whomever fails to give it respectful attention. As the eyes of the nation turn to the first Presidential debate this Wednesday, will immigration supercharge the colloquy or — as in years past — be wholly ignored or disregarded as annoying static electricity?

Will Candidate Romney repeat his offensively tone-deaf line, “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals“? 

Will President Obama be asked to explain why he waited so long, all along claiming a lack of authority to use his executive power to ameliorate immigration hardships, and then reversed course in the campaign’s end-game as a seemingly craven political ploy to curry Latino votes?

No one knows what Jim Lehrer, debate moderator emeritus, will ask in the first debate?  A petition is circulating that implores him to “include immigration reform in the domestic policy debate.”

Certainly there are many menu items in the candidates’ recent campaign pratfalls, the parties’ respective platforms and their Congressional antics that offer delectable interrogatory opportunities, as I suggest in these posts (“The Immigration Week That Was,” “The GOP Position: Immigration under Glass,” “The Democrats’ Immigration Position: Better But Blemished,” and “Immigration Buffets and Buffeting in Congress“), and in my recent LXBN interview: 

While pundits handicap debate strategies, I offer a few more immigration questions for Mr. Lehrer to pose:

Whatever the outcome of the debates and the November election, maybe all this electrifying talk about immigration is simply the wrong metaphor.  Americans seem far less troubled about immigration, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press:

Immigration is . . . less of a focus in 2012. In [our] new survey, 41% view the issue of immigration as very important – the lowest of 12 issues tested – compared with 52% in August 2008.

Maybe the best debate questions should therefore be posed to each of them: 

  • What specific actions will you take to cattle-prod Congress into enacting comprehensive immigration reform?
  • Why won’t you lead us, by solving, once and for all, our immigration challenges?