Immigration 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?
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:
- Governor Romney, do you think the federal government should tax employers $10,000 for each H-1B worker they sponsor?
- President Obama, why should the American people believe your recent pledge to tackle immigration reform right away in your second term when you failed to honor the same commitment in your first term?
- Governor Romney, your immigration advisor, Kris Kobach, has supported laws which reportedly have caused economic harm to states and localities adopting them. What immigration measures would you adopt to spur their economies?
- President Obama, your Secretary of Homeland Security has instructed Immigration and Customs Enforcement to treat LGBT couples as “family relationships” in removal proceedings, and your Justice Department no longer defends the Defense of Marriage Act. Will you issue a regulation or executive order in your second term that authorizes the approval of same-sex, marriage-based immigrant visa petitions?
- Governor Romney, the Mexican Government has accepted an American labor union claim that Alabama’s anti-immigrant law (HB 56) violates a U.S./Mexico trade agreement. How will a Romney Administration respond?
- President Obama, why are 31-year-old and older DREAMers ineligible to file for DACA benefits?
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?