16. True immigration reform requires action by the Federal government. The FOP believes that any legislation reforming our nation’s immigration system must provide for greater security at our nation’s borders, aggressive enforcement of immigration law internally, and enhanced penalties against businesses and individuals that exploit and traffic in illegal laborers. Do you agree? What elements do you see as most important for a comprehensive immigration reform bill and what steps will your Administration undertake to enact reform?
Obama: Over the last two years, my administration has dedicated unprecedented resources to secure our borders, taken important steps to make our interior and worksite enforcement smarter and more effective, and made long-needed improvements to the legal immigration system. These steps have been important, but we cannot solve the problems with our broken immigration system without broad-based legislative changes.
I am committed to working with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and have reaffirmed my commitment to strengthening our economic competitiveness by creating a legal immigration system that rewards hard work and demands responsibility. I agree that we need a smart, effective system that secures our borders, holds employers accountable, and provides a path to citizenship for those in the United States illegally after they get right with the law by passing a background check, learning English, and paying taxes and fines. I am also committed to passing the DREAM Act, which provides opportunity for responsible, young immigrants who came here through no fault of their own and grew up as Americans to earn their citizenship by serving in the military or going to college.
Romney: I believe we must protect legal immigration by ending illegal immigration. That will require securing the borders with proper resources and a border fence, establishing a national E-Verify system to enable employers to check the work status of those they hire, cracking down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and turning off other “magnets”—such as drivers’ licenses and in-state tuition—that encourage illegal immigration. I believe we must ensure that any reform of our immigration system does not encourage further illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants who apply for legal status should not be given any advantage over those who are following the law and waiting their turn. Illegal immigrants must get in line with those applying legally. We must respect the rule of law and respect those who are waiting patiently to enter the United States through legal channels.
17. The FOP has expressed concern that critics of the decision of the State of Arizona to enact Senate Bill 1070, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, have and continue to state that law enforcement officers will engage in racial profiling despite the fact that this practice is illegal. Law enforcement officers know the meanings of the terms “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause.” What is your position on local and State enforcement of immigration law, be it State or Federal?
Obama: The Arizona law is a misdirected expression of frustration over our broken immigration system, and it raises serious concerns, especially for civil rights. A patchwork of different state immigration regulations around the country would interfere with the federal government’s responsibility to set and enforce immigration policy. The Supreme Court is reviewing provisions of this law and is expected to issue a final decision on the case this June.
Romney: I support the right of states to craft laws to allow state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of our immigration laws, particularly when the federal government has not adequately dealt with the costs of illegal immigration. As with any laws, such measures should be implemented with care and caution so as not to single out individuals based upon their ethnicity, but I would expect nothing less from the law enforcement officers across the country who serve the public on a daily basis.
18. The FOP strongly supported the REAL ID Act because law enforcement officers need to have confidence that the documents presented to them to establish the identity of a given individual are accurate. Officers rely on these documents during traffic stops and other law enforcement actions to access information related to that individual’s criminal history. As President, will you continue to support it and ensure adequate funding to States for its implementation? Will you pledge to oppose efforts to repeal the law like the “Providing for Additional Security in States’ Identification (PASS ID) Act?”
Obama: I will continue to support states in their efforts to meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act. The deadline for state compliance has been extended from May 11, 2011 to January 15, 2013. This change will give states the time necessary to ensure that driver’s licenses and identification cards meet the security requirements of the REAL ID Act.
Romney: I support efforts to assist the states in improving standards for the issuance of accurate and secure drivers’ licenses and identification cards. Such efforts must be mindful of federalism concerns and not unduly burden state budgets, particularly in this current economic climate. As the Fraternal Order of Police is no doubt aware, many states have resisted implementing REAL ID because of budget and other concerns, including the belief that REAL ID is an unfunded mandate. Proposals like the PASS ID Act have hampered implementation of REAL ID by incentivizing states to delay their compliance with REAL ID in the hope that Congress would change the law, which has not occurred. As president, I would work with the states to find solutions to the problem that appropriately respect federalism principles and provide the necessary funding to implement the goals of REAL ID.