US presidential candidates: Who is the best bet for legal immigrants?

With Candidates dropping off almost weekly, currently there are only two democrats and four republicans running for the US President’s post as of February 1, 2008.

Democrat senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has a lot of points in her favor, starting with a very pro-immigration stand. She is also the founder and co-chairperson of senate India caucus and has openly endorsed increasing the H1-B quota.

Among other things, Clinton has stated that she will make policy changes to make it easier for immigrants to bring families to the US. During the Immigration Bill debate in the senate last year, Clinton voted YES for the guest worker program but opposed the “Y” nonimmigrant worker program proposed on grounds that it will allow employers to lower wages and exploit legal workers.

Clinton’s win will definitely be beneficial to legal immigration, as she has been a constant supporter of pro-Immigration issues. It remains to be seen how her party backs her up, in case she does win. 

Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois seems to have a middling view on immigration, but his promises so far have received a lukewarm reaction from pro-immigration lobby. Obama has a strong stand on border security and illegal immigration but sympathizes with legal immigrants by stating that the Immigration system is broken for legal immigrants.

“We’ve got to fix a broken immigration system not just for the undocumented but for legal immigrants. Because the backlogs are horrendous, the fees have been increased and doubled and tripled, and as a consequence more and more people are having difficulty just trying to reunify their families even if they’re going through the legal pathways, and that puts more pressure on people to go into the illegal system. That is something we’re going to try to pass” – the senator had promised during his campaign.

Among other things Obama supports state funded medical aid for legal Immigrants and last year voted for establishing a Guest Worker program and giving Guest Workers a path to citizenship. But he is against the point system proposed for citizenship in the Bill.
Of the Republican candidates, only four remain in the race.

Leading the race is John McCain, the Senator from Arizona who has been as pro-immigration as it can get. He has professed quite hard views on Illegal Immigration. But he has also very specifically supported the proposal to increase the immigration quota for computer scientists and other information technology workers.

He has also proposed increasing the eligibility criteria for legal immigrants’ access to social programs, providing extra federal aid to states with higher numbers of immigrants to help with medical and social benefits to this group etc. Last year he voted for the Immigration Bill’s proposed expansion of the visas for skilled workers program and establishing the guest worker program.

Among the other republican candidates, we have Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Romney has been trying to woo the crowds with his hard-line of Illegal Immigrants but the fact that his policy on this issue did an about turn late in term is a big negative against him. Basically, he has flip flopped enough on this issue to make voters wary of his “I love legal immigrants…..” speeches.

He opposed last years Immigration reform Bill on grounds that “It is the wrong approach. Any legislation that allows illegal immigrants to stay in the country indefinitely, as the new ‘Z-Visa’ does, is a form of amnesty. That is unfair to the millions of people who have applied to legally immigrate to the U.S.”

As for Republican candidate Ron Paul from Texas, the jury is still out. His policy regarding immigration can be termed fair, as it doesn’t lean either way. He had voted in favor of extending Immigrant Residency rules during the discussions on the Immigration Bill, along with a motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill that would extend by four months a law allowing some immigrants to remain in the country while pursuing legal residency.

Mike Huckabee, the fourth republican candidate is also pro immigration. He seems inclined towards legal immigrants, specially “engineers and doctors and scientists”. However, he has taken a stronger stand on the border security issue with proposal of a sealed border.

To sum it up, of the six candidates still in the race, we have three pro-immigration candidates in Clinton, McCain, and Huckabee to some extent. With McCain and Clinton running at the front, it looks good for the legal immigrants in the country. But of course, in the months to come the situation might change. Hopefully, the next president will be someone who realizes that legal immigrants are an asset to the US economy and not just a political issue to be forgotten post-election.