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Where They Stand: Obama, Romney On Immigration

Below are President Obama's and Republican challenger Mitt Romney's policies and proposals regarding immigration. NPR will be comparing the two candidates on various issues in the run-up to the November election. If you have suggestions for other issues you'd like us to explore, please leave a note in the comments section below.



Supports; also endorses letting foreign students stay in U.S. after college graduation.

"Something that we can do immediately that is very important is to pass the DREAM Act, which allows children who through no fault of their own are here but have essentially grown up as Americans, allow them the opportunity for higher education."

Austin, Texas, Democratic primary debate, 2008


Opposes; says he would veto the act if Congress passes it but supports allowing illegal immigrants who serve honorably in the U.S. military to become permanent citizens.

"I'm delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents in this country. For those that come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits I find to be contrary to the idea of a nation of law."

LeMars, Iowa, Dec. 31, 2011

Illegal immigrants living in the U.S.:


Has ordered a stop to the deportations of younger illegal immigrants who came to U.S. as children and have no criminal history; administration presided over record 396,906 deportations in 2011.

"This is not amnesty; this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people."

Rose Garden remarks on suspension of deportations of young people, June 15, 2012


Has advocated "self-deportation" and sanctions for employers who hire illegal workers. Romney has declined to say whether he would reverse Obama's policy on younger immigrants if elected president, and referred to the president's plan as a politically motivated, "stopgap measure."

"The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here. We're not going to round people up."

GOP primary debate, Tampa, Fla., Jan. 23, 2012

Arizona immigration enforcement law:


Opposed; said law, key parts of which the Supreme Court has struck down, undermines notion of fairness.

"What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system; it's part of the problem."

Response to high court ruling, June 25, 2012


Endorsed parts of law as "model" during February primary debate, defends state-based immigration action as a right.

"I believe that each state has the duty — and the right — to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities."

Response to high court ruling, June 25, 2012

Comprehensive immigration overhaul:


Supported failed 2007 legislation that would have created path to citizenship for illegal immigrants; criticized by Hispanic community for not pursuing reform when he had Democratic majorities in Congress.

"My Cabinet has been working very hard on trying to get it done, but ultimately, I think somebody said the other day, I am president, I am not king. I can't do these things just by myself. We have a system of government that requires the Congress to work with the executive branch to make it happen."

Univision Radio interview with Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, Oct. 25, 2010


Had supported 2007 immigration reform act that created path to citizenship for illegal immigrants; since denounced it as "amnesty plan."

"Amnesty is a magnet. ... Programs that have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that's going to only encourage more people to come here illegally."

CNN GOP primary debate, Nov. 22, 2011

Border fence:


Supported 2006 congressional measure to build a fence on U.S. border with Mexico; declared, to much GOP criticism in May 2011, that the fence is "basically complete."

"We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported border reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. ... They'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That's politics."

El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011


Supports; also wants more guards to secure it.

"We've got to have a fence, or the technologically approved system to make sure we know who's coming into the country, No. 1. No. 2, we ought to have enough agents to secure that fence and to make sure that people coming over are caught."

Reagan Library GOP primary debate, Sept. 7, 2011

English as the official language:


Opposes; voted no as senator in 2007 on amendment to immigration overhaul bill that would have made English the national language.

"Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they'll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual?"

Powder Springs, Ga., July 8, 2008


Supports; also supports English immersion over bilingual education.

"I believe English should be the official language of the United States. I also believe that in our schools, we should teach kids in English. ... Kids in this country should learn English so they can have all the jobs and all the opportunity of people who are here."

CNN GOP primary debate, Jan. 26, 2012

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Liz Halloran joined NPR in December 2008 as Washington correspondent for Digital News, taking her print journalism career into the online news world.