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Immigration was a hotly contested issue during the past year, and it appears it will continue to be a top priority for the 2008 presidential election—and beyond.
The United States Census Bureau estimates there is one legal immigrant added to the population every 30 seconds. The Mexican government issued a late-2007 report estimating that over half of the 11 million Mexicans living in the U.S. live there illegally.
During 2007, a bill was purposed in Congress that would have allowed illegal immigrants a chance for citizenship, tightened border security and created stricter rules to ensure that employers do not hire illegal aliens. However, the bill was pushed aside and not voted upon.
The last year also saw a surge of requests by permanent legal residents for full citizenship, due to a looming increase in fees and wanting to vote in the 2008 presidential election. Citizen and Immigrations Services received 2.5 million naturalization petitions and visa applications during July and August of 2007—double the amount during the same months of the previous year.
Legal immigrants tend to vote for illegal immigrant rights because they often live in the same neighborhoods and households as illegal residents. With this upswing in applicants for citizenship, in addition to the nation’s large Hispanic vote, 2008 presidential candidates must carefully address this topic so they do not alienate this substantial part of the voter pool.
A July Gallup poll revealed that Americans consider immigration one of the top four most important issues of the election. One in three Hispanics mentioned immigration as the most important issue.
Three-quarters of American Hispanics say that illegal immigrants help the U.S. economy by providing low-cost labor, according to a poll by the Pew Hispanic Center. And only one in five Hispanics say that illegal immigration has a negative impact on the nation.
However, 52% of Americans polled feel that any form of immigration hurts the U.S. (up eight points since June), according to an end of 2007 Wall Street Journal and NBC News poll, while only 39% view it as positive.