Along with the war in Iraq, worries about health care and the economy, illegal immigration ranks as a top concern for many voters. The issue of illegal immigration has been raised at countless town hall meetings and debates, in ads in Iowa and other early presidential battlegrounds, and in the one-on-one encounters with candidates on the campaign trail.
GOP Reps. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Duncan Hunter of California stand as the opponents of illegal immigration, and hope to increase enforcement enough so that most illegal immigrants will pack up and leave. The range of candidates ends on the left with Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who has proposed making Spanish the second official language of the United States. So-called ‘top-tier’ candidates, including Democrat Hillary Clinton and the GOP’s John McCain have already been singed by the issue.
While immigration has been a prominent issue among Republican candidates, the Democrats have been trying to court a growing Hispanic vote without alienating the old-line party constituencies and independents troubled by the past decade’s surge in illegal immigration. Most GOP candidates oppose amnesty, but Giuliani and McCain favor a path to legal status for illegal immigrants who pay back taxes and fines, learn English and have clean records. Each, however, is very careful in discussing their support, stressing that border security must come first.