The Impact of the Presidential Election on U.S. Immigration Policy

By Steve Maggi

As an expert on immigration law, I get asked many questions about immigration policy and laws, and now, as November 6th looms on the horizon, almost all questions have to do with what the direction of U.S. immigration policy will be, depending on who wins, and how that will affect foreign nationals both inside and outside the U.S. There are two ways to analyze the pending choice we must all make as U.S. citizens: Practice or Preach, i.e. an analysis of what has been done versus what has been said.

Since Mr. Obama has had one term to demonstrate the importance immigration issues have for his administration, we can analyze what has been done so far. However, an analysis based on a candidate’s track record, while informative, is not a guarantee of their future policies or stances. For example, if you were to go back to Mr. Obama’s initial campaign promise of profoundly changing immigration policy in his first year in office, and compare it to the little that has actually been done, you could argue that he was simply promising something to please his constituents, and then followed another course, or none at all. The Obama administration deported more illegals than his predecessor, George W. Bush, and when people became aware of this, many argued he sought a quick fix to assuage fears and suspicions that perhaps he was not sympathetic to the plight of illegals, and that the products of that realization were the initiatives titled “Prosecutorial Discretion” and “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA, see previous articles/blogs about this new initiative and its problems). In fact, those two programs serve to assure that those here with illegal status or no status will not be deported, for an undetermined period of time, but confer no legal status whatsoever nor channel them into some legal process to eventually procure legal status, thus putting them into government sanctioned, official legal limbo. The question then becomes how those road-to-who-knows-where initiatives are really to be measured.

If you prefer to make an informed decision based on what each candidate preaches, the official websites of both candidates does not help Mr. Obama’s case, simply because he makes no case whatsoever. Mitt Romney’s website ( is not only informative but relatively clear on what Mr. Romney believes to be the major immigration issues and problems, and also his proposed changes to the U.S. immigration system. Unfortunately, it is not clear as to how those proposed changes would be implemented, but when compared to Mr. Obama’s campaign website (, one cannot but be impressed by the time and consideration Mr. Romney’s team gave to the issue. Why? Obama’s site does not even contain immigration as one of its issues. One has to go the Spanish-language version of the site to find a mention of immigration, and there it takes a more central role. However, it does not contain any real content, just “puffing” and reaffirming a dedication to passing the DREAM Act and saying the system has become more “just, intelligent and efficient”, which means nothing to an immigration practitioner like myself or my colleagues, because it cannot be quantified or demonstrated tangibly.

As a minority and immigrant child growing up in the minority-predominant neighborhood of Spanish Harlem in New York City, it is hard to imagine voting for anyone but the democratic candidate. It is almost an automatic response in that community. However, as an adult it is important to make informed decisions. While I do not publicly advocate for any candidate, I can objectively say that I heard Obama’s promises four years ago and anticipated a sweeping change in immigration policy which did not come to fruition. What I see now, based not on rhetoric or debate responses, but rather on the official websites of the candidates, is immigration in the forefront of Mr. Romney’s campaign, but only as a last-minute, Spanish-only afterthought on Mr. Obama’s webpage.

Lost, as always, in the shuffle of both campaigns and their proposed or un-proposed changes to U.S. immigration policy, is the plight of the ones caught in limbo, the illegals presently in the U.S. Mr. Romney was recently quoted as saying he would repeal DACA (, and this announcement comes as no surprise simply because it is not part of Mr. Romney’s master plan. His website states: “Mitt believes that an amnesty should not be permitted to happen again”, and that is the only way that more than eleven million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. could get legal status. Therefore, any question about the 2012 U.S. presidential race and its effect on U.S. immigration policy has, and will continue to have, answers that are unclear.

The bottom line is that what the candidates preach may not very well be what they practice and whomever you vote for, it will be a leap of faith. For the sake of current and prospective immigrants, we can only hope that what is practiced is not only beneficial to them, but to the U.S. as a whole. For now, it is only those with the power to vote who matter to the candidates, whether they say it or not.

If you have any questions about immigration policy or a specific immigration issue, please feel contact Steve Maggi at: or by calling (212) 402-6885.


Posted by on Oct 18 2012. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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