Leading up to next week's pivotal primaries in Florida and Ohio, Presidential Hopefuls from both parties added some clarity to their immigration positions during debates this week in South Florida. While most of the Republican Hopefuls tried to balance continued levels of immigration with the electorate's angst over mass immigration, the Democratic Hopefuls all but called for open borders.
On Wednesday night, Univision's Jorge Ramos forced the Democratic Hopefuls to take definitive positions on deportations and more specifically the recent and ongoing surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children. Then on Thursday, the Washington Examiner's Stephan Dinan focused more on legal immigration's impact on the plight of American workers and their wages during his questioning of the Republican Hopefuls.
Here are the takeaways:
- Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both oppose deportations except when the illegal alien is a dangerous criminal or terrorist.
- GOP front-runner Donald Trump called for a 1-2 year pause in legal immigration.
- Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich wouldn't embrace Trump's proposed pause with Cruz coming the closest and Kasich suggesting even more legal immigration.
Thursday night's immigration segment started with Dinan asking Rubio about his support for increasing H-1B visas in light of the recent layoffs at Disney World in Orlando where hundreds of American tech workers were fired and replaced with foreign workers. Instead of answering the question, Rubio called Disney's actions "illegal" and followed with a list of misconceptions about the program.
"[I]t is illegal now under that program to use it to replace American workers ... you have to prove not only that you're not replacing Americans, but that you've tried to hire Americans ... a lot of these companies are not directly hiring employees from abroad. They are hiring a consulting company like Tata, for example, out of India."
Those claims from Rubio are either false or misleading. And none of his "concerns" are addressed in S.153, his I-Squared bill that that would nearly triple the number of H-1B visas issued each year. There is no requirement for employers to prove that an H-1B worker would displace American workers unless the company is considered "H-1B dependent" which, in most cases, means that at least 15% of their workforce holds an H-1B visa. And while there are companies that outsource tech work to consulting firms like Tata, Disney did not. They fired American workers and hired H-1B workers in their place.
As for Trump, he came under fire at the last debate for his company's use of guest worker programs. On Thursday, he acknowledged his use of both the H-1B and H-2B guest worker programs, but he vowed to end them as president.
"It's something that I frankly use and I shouldn't be allowed to use it. We shouldn't have it. Very, very bad for workers. And second of all, I think it's very important to say, well, I'm a businessman and I have to do what I have to do."
On Twitter, Roy called Trump's answer "honest". As far as we're aware, his pledge to end the guest worker programs is the first time he's done so in a public setting.
Cruz was asked directly about the current level of green cards issued each year by the federal government. He ducked the question, but did offer some hope for low-skilled American workers.
"We're bringing in far too many low skilled workers. What that is doing is driving down the wages of hard-working Americans."
Dinan asked Kasich if Trump's pause in immigration would help American workers. Kasich said immigration "brings youth and vibrance and energy to our country", which Roy characterized as calling Americans "old" and "lacking vibrance". Kasich called for increased legal immigration and legalization of the nation's 11 million illegal aliens.
While the Republican Hopefuls offered a mixed bag of responses, the Democratic Hopefuls doubled down on their anti-enforcement positions. Ramos asked Clinton if she would follow in Pres. Obama's footsteps in becoming the next "deporter-in-chief". It was a bit of an unfair question considering deportations are at their lowest level since Obama took office with just under 70,000 interior removals in 2015 after reaching nearly 250,000 in 2009 and 2010.
"I will not deport children. I would not deport children. I do not want to deport family members either, Jorge. I want to, as I said, prioritize who would be deported: violent criminals, people planning terrorist attacks, anybody who threatens us. That's a relatively small universe."
Ramos tried to get both Clinton and Sanders to state that they wouldn't deport any of the Unaccompanied Alien Children surging across the border. (According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the vast majority of UACs have been 16 and over.)
"RAMOS: OK. So I want to be very specific. So you are telling us tonight that if you become president you won't deport children who are already here?
CLINTON: I will not."
"RAMOS: Senator Sanders, would you -- can you promise us tonight that you won't deport children?
SANDERS: So to answer your question, no, I will not deport children from the United States of America."
When you compare these responses with what Kasich said on Thursday, you can see the difference between the two Parties. Clinton and Sanders pledged not to deport even recent illegal border crossers, in addition to the millions already here.
While Kasich said he wouldn't deport most illegal aliens already in the country, he did at least say that he would deport anyone who entered the country illegally after a certain date. That distinction is the difference between open-borders and not open-borders.
The Washington Post's "Daily 202" said Clinton's response (assuming she wins the nomination) would hurt her in the general election.
"The fight over immigration could become one of the most significant issues of the general election, especially if Trump is the Republican nominee. Hillary might be thinking about activating the Obama coalition, but coming out against enforcement actions to deal with illegal immigration could make it harder to appeal to some voters."
Recognizing what could be at stake, Post columnist Greg Sargent attempted to downplay Clinton and Sanders's responses.
"Univision's Jorge Ramos essentially pushed both Sanders and Clinton to vow not to deport any children. They both complied. But then the debate snowballed, and they both went on to promise more than that: they also vowed not to deport any undocumented immigrants who are not criminals or public safety threats. ...What this amounts to in practice is a pledge not to deport any undocumented immigrants who would have been legalized by the Senate comprehensive immigration bill, which has been estimated at around nine million people."
Even a liberal columnist understands the unpopularity of open-borders with the American people. But the reality is that even the Gang of 8 bill would have excluded illegal aliens who recently crossed the border or hadn't been in the country for a certain length of time from legalization. So Sargent's assessment is wrong, and both Clinton and Sanders pledged to expand on the Gang of 8 amnesty.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA
Updated: Mon, Mar 28th 2016 @ 9:45am EDT