NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 15, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) differ on immigration?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of Obama's positions on immigration.

Border security:

  • Obama supports providing more personnel along the U.S. border.
  • He would also increase physical barriers, technology and real-time intelligence along U.S. borders and at ports of entry.

Legalization/path to citizenship:

  • Obama would require illegal immigrants with clean criminal records who want to become citizens to pay a fine and back taxes, learn English and go to the back of the line behind immigrants who came into this country legally.
  • He would not require the borders to be secured before illegal immigrants could seek citizenship.
  • Obama would also increase the number of legal immigrants.

Legal immigration:

  • Obama supports the current system of giving preference to family members of U.S. citizens and legal residents in allocating green cards, and opposes moving to a merit-based point system that would favor potential immigrants with higher-education levels or needed job skills.
  • He is open to experimenting with a point system for skills and education that does not reduce the number of family visas now available.

Guest-worker program:

  • Supports the creation of a new guest-worker program to meet employers' needs for temporary workers.
  • Stipulates that the program must contain protections against driving down American workers' wages and must provide temporary workers with labor rights and give those who meet certain criteria the opportunity to eventually become citizens.

Employer sanctions:

  • Would require all employers to use a new electronic system to verify whether newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States and would allow the social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the Homeland Security Department to share information about eligibility.
  • He would impose stiff penalties on employers who knowingly hire or exploit illegal workers.

Source: "Obama on Immigration," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


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