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Immigration: Republicans' Secret Weapon?

An emailed question asked of the two candidates by Politico's Jeanne Cummings exposes a real potential problem for Democrats: immigration.

The question was whether either candidate would acknowledge that the declining employment rates and declining wages in the black community was the fault of illegal immigration.

Obama rejected that sort of "scapegoating" and added that he believed it was possible for America to be a land of laws and a land of immigrants. "This is where we do have a very real difference with the other party," said Obama.

Clinton opted for the straight talk approach, acknowledging the difficulty of the issue and proposing a bipartisan solution. Clinton advocated for a comprehensive approach to reforming the system that includes a path to citizenship as well as penalties and a requirement to learn English. "We need to solve this problem, not exacerbate it, and that is what I will do as president," she said.

The truth is that immigration is a powder keg issue in American politics. While conservative Republicans -- and talk radio -- are the most vocal about it, the issue has resonance across partisan lines.

Of course, if McCain is the nominee he was a leader for comprehensive immigration reform and might have trouble drawing a stark contrast with either Clinton or Obama. As Obama noted, he once worked with McCain on a comprehensive immigration bill, "though maybe he won't admit it now."

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 31, 2008; 8:50 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in November there are 7.2 million Americans looking for work and there are an additional 4.6 million Americans who have given up on looking for work because they have searched so long. So there are at least 11.8 million out of work Citizens and Legal Residents in the U.S.A. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Pew Center there are between 6.3 and 7.2 million working Illegal Immigrants. So today we pay two people to do one job, we pay the Illegal Immigrant to do the work and we pay various forms of unemployment, financial aid, food stamps, etc. to the U.S. Citizen who lost his or her job to the Illegal Immigrant. lf employers quit hiring Illegal Immigrants tomorrow and put the out of work (especially the Hard Core Unemployed) in the jobs instead it would bring the unemployment rate including the Hard Core Unemployed to somewhere between 3% and 4%. In the past, until politically motivated economists redefined what constituted full employment, an unemployment rate of 2% was considered full employment. We would be the closest we have come in years to full employment if it were not for the lack of enforcement of our laws against employing Illegal Immigrants. This has been lost in the current rhetoric. If it is rediscovered pro-Illegal Immigrant Politicians could pay a heavy price.

Posted by: Norski | February 1, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama will be Clinton's VP. It's the most power packed combo out there, and will sooth all the feathers. They will beat McCain and Huckabee by a hair.

Posted by: ronimacz | February 1, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Wasn't it there secret weapon in 06 too? Except it wasn't much of a secret, or it turns out much of a weapon.

Posted by: light_bearer | February 1, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Unemployment in the black community did not start with the influx of recent immigrants from Mexico. In fact, unemployment among blacks has been lower under Bush II and Clinton than it was under Bush I and Reagan.

Posted by: xango | January 31, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Chris Cillizza:

This might be difficult to believe, but there are patriotic Americans who aren't partisan hacks. No matter who's elected, some people will be willing to go to campaign appearances and ask questions designed to reveal that the candidates are not qualified. Their responses can then be promoted via non-MSM means.

You might want to discuss that with your bosses, and let them know that sooner or later people are going to start doing the job they refuse to do. They might decide that asking real questions now is the better option that letting other people do it in October.

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | January 31, 2008 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Are there statistics to back up this claim of "declining employment rates and declining wages in the black community." Just because right wing socialists such as Lou Dobbs say this doesn't make it so. Unemployment is around 5%, it was much higher in the 1970s when we had many fewer immigrants.

Posted by: RealChoices | January 31, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Mark-in-Austin, work permits create a permanent under class. It's just not fair. Seeing as how your name isn't "Running with Deer" or whatever, I'm judging you descended from immigrants, why stop it now? We were built on immigration.

Germany has work permits and it's created a lot of problems there.

Posted by: donjaime37 | January 31, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Sure...the immigration issue worked really well for the Virginia Republicans and Duncan Hunter's presidential nomination. Not to mention it sunk John McCains presidential run.

Posted by: albrightak | January 31, 2008 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Obama is sooo funny denying the fact that illegal immigration has harmed low skilled workers...esp. African-Americans...he its in a dream land on that

Posted by: Aziza21232 | January 31, 2008 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Hillary was the President of the Wellesley College Young Republicans - she was so good at being a ferocious conservative - she was the first student of Wellesley to be a lead speaker at their commencement in 1968.

Then the Rockefeller (Standard Oil) family took her under her wing. Wikipedia used to have a fair history of her until they became a propaganda tool for the Clintons.

Posted by: theman_in_black | January 31, 2008 9:01 PM | Report abuse

donjaime, that may be true for the Tancredo fear mongers. They just hate "brown".
But for those of us who are willing to make an accommodation but are not willing to give the vote to people whose loyalty is elsewhere, why not stop at work permits?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 9:00 PM | Report abuse

The Clintons Lie!!!!!!!!

They are EVIL!!!!!!!!!

See Bill Moyers Documentary 'Selling the War'. Hillary sold the war harder than any other Democrat and harder than most Republicans.

No matter Obama's stance on Immigration...What the Clintons will do to the middle class and poor is nothing compared to what Obama can do. See: Welfare Reform... See: Medicare(less) Reform in the Clinton era. See NAFTA

Hey Chris !!!! Stop erasing the posts!!!

Posted by: theman_in_black | January 31, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Immigration is the Republicans secret gun pointed at their own head. Way to piss off the fastest growing voting group - check. Way to make us irrelevant for decades - check.

Posted by: donjaime37 | January 31, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Why do Ds insist on making citizenship the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the illegal immigrants? Why not just make work permits available for the hard working and honorable, who came here for jobs, and send money to the place they still think of as "home"? McC has learned that the citizenship giveaway is the deal breaker for most people.

Indies, I think, generally do not buy the
citizenship giveaway.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 31, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

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