In the Presidential Debate on October 16, 2012, Governor Romney and President Obama finally discussed immigration reform. Both candidates agreed that we live in a country of hope and prosperity that has attracted immigrants throughout our history. Governor Romney stated, “We welcome legal immigrants into this country,” while President Obama said, “There are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise.” Each candidate builds on the rhetoric of the quintessential American Dream, however, Governor Romney and President Obama present very different plans for immigration reform for youth. If elected president, Governor Romney will create a pathway to citizenship for young people willing to serve in the United States military, while President Obama plans to support immigrant youth pursuing higher education or a future in the military. President Obama’s plan creates a hopeful future of opportunity and innovation for immigrant youth, while Governor Romney’s plan limits future options for these bright, aspiring young people. President Obama’s focus on education is central to his immigration reform policy. While Governor Romney’s plan exploits young illegal immigrants by pushing them into the United States military, President Obama’s initiative to improve education policies and opportunities for immigrants will open doors for hard working immigrant students to excel in our country and improve our economy through innovation and creativity.
Governor Romney’s campaign website lays out his rigid plan for immigration reform, which fails to acknowledge the potential of immigrant youth or provide access to education. One of Governor Romney’s most problematic statements in his plan illustrates how he will provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth through military service. His plan explicitly states, “Mitt Romney believes that young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children should have the chance to become permanent residents, and eventually citizens by serving honorably in the United States military.” Essentially, Governor Romney will only create one pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth, which exploits their services and contributions to our country. The United States military holds high prestige and honor, however it also exposes those who serve in combat to danger and violence. Under Governor Romney’s plan, immigrant youth would not have a chance to expand on their talents or potential; instead, they would be required to risk their lives for our country in order to eventually gain citizenship. Immigrants who want to serve in the military should have that option, but they should also have the choice, like every other young person, to pursue higher education; however, Governor Romney’s rejection of in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants limits their ability to continue their education or pursue options outside of military service. In many ways, Governor Romney’s plan has a façade of supporting immigrants by creating a pathway to citizenship, a concept that many conservatives often reject, but in examining the reality of this plan, we find that it discriminates against immigrant youth by neglecting their rights to a proper education and exploiting their talents for military purposes.
On the other hand, President Obama upholds the value of immigrant contributions and strives to create greater opportunities for immigrants by improving their access to higher education. In the Presidential Debate, President Obama expressed the significance of immigrant participation in the United States when he stated, “[Immigrants] provide us energy, and they provide us innovation, and they start companies like Intel and Google, and we want to encourage that.” Obama believes in sparking this spirit of innovation and creativity through education and ensuring immigrants have access to educational opportunities that would promote success in the United States. President Obama’s plan states that, “the law should stop punishing innocent young people whose parents brought them here illegally and give those young men and women a chance to stay in this country if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.” Unlike Governor Romney, President Obama includes higher education as a pathway to citizenship and has supported initiatives, such as the Dream Act, to provide in-state tuition for immigrant youth. While Governor Romney’s plan tends to marginalize immigrant youth and fails to recognize their potential, President Obama’s plan emulates a sense of hope and demonstrates a desire to see these young people succeed in the United States. President Obama will help “level the playing field” for immigrant youth and give them the same access to opportunities as American citizens, while Governor Romney will only deepen the divide between immigrants and citizens by placing immigrant youth on a narrow pathway to serving in our military.
If we want to truly reform immigration policy in our country and give opportunities to young immigrants, we must focus on education. Education is key in opening doors for immigrant youth and giving them the chance to succeed. We should not exploit these young people for military service, but rather we should recognize them as intelligent, hard-working people that have the potential to positively impact the United States in many ways.