14 August 2012

Romney's VP pick unpopular with US immigration advocates

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Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate for November's election last weekend yet his ultra-conservative stance on some issues, particularly US immigration, has raised some eyebrows.

US immigration

Paul Ryan has been selected as Republican nominee Mitt Romney's running mate in November's election but his conservative views have rankled some.

Mr Ryan, 42, was announced by Mr Romney on Saturday and his selection has already reinvigorated both the former Massachusetts governor's campaign and President Obama's re-election campaign.

Republicans have said Mr Ryan's ability to appeal to the ordinary voter combats the impression of an inability to relate to Mr Romney due to his vast riches create while the Democrat campaign contends that Mr Ryan's conservative stances ensure any potential Romney administration will return to the 'failed' policies of the past.

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan has served as the US Representative for Wisconsin's first district since 1999, when he was the then-second youngest member of the House of Representatives.

Several independent and objective statistical measures place Mr Ryan's political ideology to the right of former Vice President Dick Cheney, a hugely divisive public figure who held just a 30% approval rating upon leaving office in 2009.

Mr Ryan's position makes him the most conservative Republican to be nominated for vice president in over 100 years. Indeed, the extent of Mr Ryan's conservatism is such that he is further to the right than any liberal Democrat nominee has ever been to the left, making him the nominee furthest from the centre of the political spectrum.

The Republican VP nominee favours criminalising abortion in all instances, including rape and incest, opposes same-sex marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples and has consistently championed gun ownership rights but it is his US immigration positions that has advocates worried.

Mr Ryan has supported the controversial E-Verify system, opposed driving licences for undocumented immigrants and has supported building a fence along the US-Mexico border. Perhaps most importantly however, Mr Ryan voted against the infamous DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants brought to the US as children a chance to earn their citizenship.

“While the DREAM Act has been promoted as an alternative to comprehensive reform, and I understand the points that DREAM Act supporters have raised, I believe this legislation attempts to treat a symptom – rather than the root cause – of our current problems,” reads Mr Ryan's website.

US immigration

The American economy looks set to remain the most important issue in November's election but immigration is also likely to carry significant influence on voters, particularly Hispanic voters.

The Hispanic and Latino demographic is one of the largest and fastest growing in the US and with significant ties to Central and South America, US immigration is an important issue.

Mr Romney had hoped to secure the Hispanic vote after many grew disillusioned with President Obama's handling of the economy but the president's executive order issued in June has significantly strengthened his position among a demographic he comfortably secured in 2008.

Tired of the continuing deadlock over the immigration issue, President Obama bypassed the Houses of Congress in June and issued an executive order which put a stop to the deportation of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the US as children if they have no criminal record and had either graduated high school or served in the military.

The order, known as Deferred Action, grants the affected immigrants, of which there are thought to be as many as 1.7 million, a work permit valid for two years.

Deferred Action achieves many similar aspects as the DREAM Act and proved no less controversial. Republicans have fought almost every aspect of the order from the perceived 'amnesty' it creates to the president's ability to even issue such an order.


However, little has come of the GOP's efforts and now Maribel Hastings, an executive advisor to the immigration advocate America's Voice, says Mr Ryan's selection as VP shows Mr Romney is 'giving up the Latino vote for lost'.

Ms Hastings says Mr Ryan's selection confirms the Republican Party's stance as one that "promotes anti-immigrant measures and fiscal proposals that run counter to the interests of the Latino community."

"Ryan's presence does not offer any balance to the extreme stances Romney has outline during the course of the election process."

An editorial in the Spanish language newspaper La Opinion said Mr Ryan's selection is a return to the hard-line position Mr Romney took during the Republican primary.

"[Mr Ryan's selection is] a strategic move that reaffirms the right-wing, non-inclusive partisan base that we saw in the primary season," read the editorial.

"What bad news for those who believe that Latinos benefit when both parties strive to win their vote, the selection of a one of the most extreme, polarizing and obstructionist figures in the Congress does not help to attract the vote of minorities or moderates.”

Current polls put Mr Obama with only a slight lead over Mr Romney but Mr Ryan's selection is likely to have a significant impact on the race for the White House.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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