18 October 2011

US immigration takes centre stage in Republican candidate race

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As the primary election between Republican Presidential candidates looks to the Western states this week, immigration policy is becoming an increasingly hot topic.

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Republican presidential candidates are talking immigration in the Southwestern states.

Republican candidates to challenge President Obama in the upcoming election have turned their attention to south-western states, where the issues of border protection and illegal immigration are highly controversial and potentially vote-swinging policy issues.

Former CEO of Godfathers Pizza Herman Cain - who despite having no political experience is leading the Republican race in some polls - is campaigning in Arizona today where debate over immigration policy is particularly contentious since the introduction of strict penalties for illegal immigration and greater police powers to conduct random America visa status checks in April 2010.

Mr Cain will meet with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who according to the Washington Post has been "the face of law enforcement" in the illegal immigration debate over the last eighteen months. Cain is a supporter of the Arizona law - which has been legally challenged by the Obama Administration as being unconstitutional - and also recently flagged a border protection policy which would see the erection of a lethal electric fence along the Mexican border. Cain has since retracted this policy idea, describing it as a joke.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is also in Arizona to unveil her position on immigration issues. Bachmann is meeting privately with the state legislators and police. In Iowa last week, Bachmann also pledged to fund greater fencing along the southern border if elected.

Frontrunner for the Republican nomination and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is campaigning in Nevada where immigration is also a key issue and there is a large Hispanic population (27%). Nevada is seen as a key battleground state which indicates immigration will continue to be a key issue of contention.

"Where Nevada goes so does the presidency," Republican strategist Robert Uithoven told CNN yesterday.

However, research released by polling firm Latino Decisions this week suggests that the hardline immigration policies being favoured by the Republican candidates are not endearing them to Hispanic voters, with 64% indicating they will vote for Obama.

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