Photo: Democratic National Convention (DNC)
Democrats gathered in Charlotte for their party convention will vote Tuesday for a platform that, in contrast to the one approved by the Republicans last week, renews their promise to push for comprehensive immigration reform.
The $1 million question is - once the election is behind them and presuming that President Barack Obama wins a second term - whether Congress at last will approve that elusive reform.
The Democratic and Republican platforms offer two very different visions for the future course of the United States on a wide range of economic and social issues.
Regarding undocumented immigrants, the Democratic platform renews the unfulfilled promise Obama made during his 2008 presidential campaign to get immigration reform under way to put an end to the desperation of thousands of immigrant families.
With the slogan “Strengthening the American Community,” the document that the 6,000 Democratic delegates will approve on the first day of their national convention reiterates that the party is “strongly committed to enacting comprehensive immigration reform that supports our economic goals and reflects our values as both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”
The text says that the existing immigration system does not respond to the needs of the labor market, separates families, levies an additional cost on the police and, above all, leaves “millions of people working and living in the shadows.”
“Democrats know there is broad consensus to repair that system and strengthen our economy, and that the country urgently needs comprehensive immigration reform that brings undocumented immigrants out of the shadows,” it says.
Instead of “promoting the national interest, Republicans have blocked immigration reform in Congress and used the issue as a political wedge,” the Democratic platform says.
The platform approved last week during the Republican convention in Tampa took a hard line against undocumented immigrants, supported the completion of a wall along the border with Mexico and an end to the “sanctuary” cities that welcome undocumented migrants and makes using the E-Verify program to prevent the hiring of undocumented foreigners mandatory.
Those ingredients, which are vital to the conservative recipe to combat illegal immigration, were proposed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an informal advisor to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Compared to the Republican platform for 1980, the move to the right in the platform approved in Tampa also included support for making English the official language of the United States.
In a nod to party conservatives, Romney maintained a hard line against undocumented immigrants during the primaries, pushing the idea of “self-deportation.” After that, in a move toward the center, he supported reform that would broaden the legal visas program.
Of special concern are the recent statements to the Miami Herald of Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: “Nobody should vote for Mitt Romney thinking that he will change his positions.”
The platforms, it is clear, are not binding documents, but they do delineate the goals set by both parties for the next four years.
Even so, immigration reform continues to be something that cannot wait, regardless of the future composition of Congress after the elections.
The occupant of the White House over the next four years, whether Obama or Romney, will have to invest political capital to push for some kind of reform.
The immigrant community, which is continuing to gain political clout, is waiting.