Comprehensive immigration reform, more border security and self-deportation are some of the terms used when talking about the controversial issue of illegal immigration in the United States. With the clock ticking until the next presidential election, both candidates have to clarify their specific plans to bring an estimated 11 million of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.
They sparred about it in their second debate, but while President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, believe the U.S. immigration system must be reformed, they don’t agree on how to achieve that.
"I will not grant amnesty to those who’ve come here illegally, what I will do is I’ll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so," said Romney.
Katherine Vargas, Director of Communications with the National Immigration Forum, says the Republican candidate has not been specific.
"He says he’s pro-immigration solutions but we don´t know what type of solutions. Self-deportation is not a solution, is simply make life as hard as possible for immigrants so they return to their countries. We know that he supports permanent residency for foreign students that graduate with science and technology degrees, but we don´t know what he´s going to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are currently in the country," said Vargas.
Governor Romney has also been criticized for changing or softening his position on immigration.
“He has basically said that he favors congressional action, that he will take up immigration legislation if he’s president, that he will resolve the circumstances of the people that are in the Dream Act population, with legislation and a more permanent solution, but then, when he’s pressed on the issue, he is not in favor of any kind of permanent legal status for people who are here, even in the Dream Act circumstance, he has said, only if they enlist in the military," said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow with the Migration Policy Institute.
President Obama, who gained the support of most of the U.S. immigrant population in the 2008 election, has been criticized for not fulfilling one of his campaign promises: to present a comprehensive immigration reform bill during his first year in office.
"What President Obama is saying is that he is four square in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, in other words, a generous package that combines enforcement measures with the possibility of legal status for the unauthorized population that's in the United States," said Meissner.
“But even so we haven´t seen details on how he´s going to accomplish that because he also promised it during his first presidential campaign, the most important thing we need to know is how he will win the Republican support, because he needs those Republican votes to have a comprehensive immigration reform bill approved," said Vargas.
At the second presidential debate, Obama defended his record.
"If we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students," said Obama.
Regardless of any changes in Congress, analysts some believe that the sharply opposing views of the candidates offer little hope of significant changes in U.S. immigration policy after November 6.