Friday, October 19, 2012

Obama ("Gang Bangers") and Romney ("Undocumented illegals") Both Miss the Reality Boat

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Rhetoric has long been a staple in national discussions over immigration in the United States.  Over the decades, terms from "wetbacks" (and a 1954 U.S. deportation campaign known as "Operation Wetback") to "illegal aliens" have been used in polite company to discuss immigrants -- and, today, most frequently immigrants from Mexico.

In the second Presidential debate, both candidates offered their own terminological flare to the current national discussion over immigration reform.  President Obama enthusiatstically touted his administration's success in deporting "gangbangers" while Mitt Romney coined the new term "undocumented illegals."  Both references deserve examination.

In referring to "gangbangers," President Obama was seeking to justify his administration's record levels of deportations over the last several years, including nearly 400,000 in the last two fiscal years.  Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has emphasized the administration's current focus on removal of "criminal aliens."  However, studies have shown that many of the immigrants subject to removal under programs like Secure Communities have been charged with relatively minor crimes (e.g., driving without a driver's license) or are not criminals at all.  While in the debate, the President suggested that the focus of the administration's removal efforts was on "gangbangers" (and who could not want to deport "gangbangers"?), serious criminals do not constitute teh vast majority of the roughly 400,000 immigrants a year who are deported. 

Many observers understand that increased enforcement by the Obama administration is a political price that some believe must be paid to convince Congress to pass comperhensive immigration reform.  Whatever the political calculation, the results are disappointing -- record levels of deportations and no comprehensive immigration reform.

Mitt Romney's new phrase -- "undocumented illegals" -- politically seems the worst of all worlds.  Use of teh word "illegals" will likely alienate Latinos and the defenders of immigrant rights.  At the same time, the word "undocumented" will alienate the restrictionists, like Romney immigration advisor Kris Kobach, who are more likely to prefer the term "illegas" or "illegal aliens."

And the beat goes on.

KJ

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2012/10/obama-gang-bangers-and-romney-undocumented-illegals-both-miss-the-reality-boat.html

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