Today marks the legal holiday commemorating the discovery of the "New World" by Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon). Since that historic episode constitutes one of the first recorded instances of undocumented immigration in this land, we thought we would reflect on the state of immigration - and, more specifically, the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform - in the final weeks of the 2016 Presidential campaign.
By virtually all measures, immigration took a prominent place as a main issue in this campaign. Yet, due to an unprecedented focus on the two major party candidates' personal backgrounds, immigration and other important issues are falling by the wayside in the final stage of the race for the White House. After two presidential and one vice-presidential debates, there has been no focused question about immigration, nor any sustained discussion on the topic. Both major-party candidates have interjected some of their immigration-related views into the debate-stage discourse (mostly in passing), but in order to understand their respective policy proposals, we must look to their prior speeches and published materials.
For her part, Hillary Clinton's web site contains specific, detailed proposals which reflect a more humane view of the immigration system as a whole than what we have seen over the course of the past 20-plus years (going back, ironically, to draconian legislation signed by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1994-1996). Sec. Clinton's plans evince a recognition that immigration is overwhelmingly about family unity and economic opportunity, while nonetheless addressing security and border enforcement issues.
On the other hand, GOP nominee Donald Trump's web site includes a Ten Point Plan to "put America first" when it comes to immigration reform. Mr. Trump's proposals start with an "impenetrable physical barrier", and proceed to connect illegal immigration to loss of economic opportunity to American workers. While there exists ample data-based research and analysis to rebut this assumption (see, for example, this piece on none other than Forbes.com), Mr. Trump clearly managed to tap into a nerve among a certain segment of the American electorate. Even during last night's debate, he looked a Muslim woman in the eye while reiterating plans to impose strict controls on Muslims' entry into the United States, and movement within our territory.
As is common with campaign promises, however, both sets of proposals are scarce when it comes to the actual implementation of the plans, from logistical feasibility to cost-analysis to assessment of the real impact on people, communities, and businesses.
So, with one debate to go, and much of America focused on "character" issues, we do not expect to hear much more useful substance on the issue nearest and dearest to us, but hope that once this election is over, much of the vitriol and vituperative attacks will subside, and we can move forward by seeking some practical solutions predicated on finding common ground on this fundamentally critical issue.
In the meantime, we will continue to do what we do, which is to work within the flawed fraework of our current immigration legal system to help bring people here legally; keep people here; and, most importantly, help businesses prosper and families stay together. As far as we see it, those are core American values, and we are honored to do our part.