Jessica: For many voters, especially those living near Mexico, one of the biggest campaign issues right now is illegal immigration, people coming to this country without the necessary legal documents. It is also a topic that hits home with our Team OneVote.
Nyantan Bol: I was driven out of my country because of political turmoil, so my goal is to return back to Sudan and try to make a difference.
It took my family and I two years to try to get into the United States. The system doesn’t really work the way it’s supposed to be, so we need to look at reforming that, and then look to fix our problem of illegal immigration.
Connor Pfeiffer: Being a resident of Texas, a border state that has a large border with Mexico, immigration is a very important issue.
We can’t have millions of people crossing our border every year into America that we don’t know where they came from, what their motives are, and what they’re here for, and simply coming into America and taking jobs, and breaking our laws.
Jessica: So where do the candidates stand? Let’s start with securing the 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico.
President Obama has increased funding to increase the number of border patrol agents and added drone spy planes to patrol from the sky.
Mitt Romney says he’d add even more guards, and he supports completing a one billion dollar fence along the border with Mexico.
But what about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already living here?
President Obama says that only those who are criminals should be deported, forced to leave the U.S.
President Obama: If we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gangbangers, people who are hurting the community – not after students.
Jessica: His administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any administration since the 1950s.
The president has also begun focusing on fines and charges for employers who hire illegal immigrants.
Mitt Romney says the solution is to make the U.S. less appealing to illegal immigrants, and he wants to simplify the process of becoming a citizen.
Mitt Romney: I want to make this system far more simple and transparent. You shouldn’t have to hire lawyers to find out how to legally immigrate to the United States.
Jessica: Romney also supports cracking down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
Romney wants to go even further and require businesses to check a federal database before hiring new employees to confirm they are citizens or have the appropriate documents.
Conner: Increasing the number of border patrol agents and really work on curbing that. Also, you need to reduce the incentive for the people who come here illegally.
However we can’t have blanket amnesty. We can’t simply say that you are all now U.S. citizens because then that encourages everyone to come back over.
Jessica: President Obama supports the DREAM Act for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The DREAM Act outlines a path for them to become citizens if they complete high school and enroll in college or the military.
The DREAM Act has been stalled in congress several times, so in June the president signed an executive order which did almost the same thing.
President Obama: A young person who comes to America is brought here, is raised here, is friends with our kids, is going to school with our kids, is American in every single way except for a piece of paper.
Jessica: Under the new plan, illegal immigrants who were brought here as children can apply for work permits, driver’s licenses and college financial aid.
Nyantan: Those kids had no say in if they came to America or not, and punishing them for something they had nothing to do with just isn’t fair. And most of those kids are smart kids, working hard, wanting to go to college, and I just think it was a really great step on the part of the Obama administration to put that policy in place.
Jessica: Mitt Romney said if elected president, he would uphold the visas already given out but he wouldn’t continue Obama’s policy.
Romney opposes the DREAM Act, but he says he would support legal residence for illegal immigrants who serve in the U.S. military.
Mitt Romney: Instead of playing politics with these children, I will pursue permanent immigration reform, and I’ll start by ensuring that those who serve in our military have the opportunity to become legal permanent residents of the country they fought to defend.
Jessica: Romney also believes the U.S. should grant more visas to highly skilled immigrants that he says will help the economy grow.
Kailyn Allen: I think one of the things our country needs to utilize is really talented people from other countries coming to study at our colleges.
I think we should offer them all a pass to legal immigration because our country is a country of immigrants and they can really help us achieve success.
Jessica: In June, the Supreme Court upheld a law in Arizona which, among other things, would require police to question the immigration status of people they stop – what has been called the ‘show me your papers’ provision.
President Obama opposes the ‘show me your papers’ provision and says it’s a violation of civil rights. He says immigration should be handled at the federal, not state level.
Paul Sanchez: Immigration here, especially in Arizona, is ridiculous. We’re going after the wrong people especially.
I mean, I don’t want my mom getting pulled over just because of her race. That’s racist overall, not just unfair, just plain out cruel and racist. So yeah, we need a lot of changes here in Arizona.
Jessica: But Mitt Romney supports the ‘show me your papers’ provision as a way to control illegal immigration. He says states should have the right to act on immigration because the federal government is not doing enough to fix the problem.