United States: Obama would make immigration a 'top priority'

Support migrant centric journalism today and donate

Media Center » Video Immigration News

In a questionnaire to both US Presidential candidates from online immigrant-rights group The Sanctuary, Barack Obama, US Senator and Democratic candidate for President of the United States, stated that he would make immigration one of his 'top priorities' during the first month of his presidency.

The questionnaire, also sent to Republican candidate John McCain's campaign, covered a wide-range of issues central to the topic of US immigration reform. The survey covered issues such as expansion of the H-1B program and the establishment of a guest worker program. McCain's campaign did not answer.

On the topic of H-1B, the survey asked if Barack Obama supported expanding the scheme by raising the limit of 65,000 H-1B visas allowed per year. In recent years -- the survey noted -- all 65,000 standard H-1B visas were snatched up in a matter of days.

Obama replied that he would support "multiple proposals for increasing access to the world's best and brightest to work in America."

However, in response to a later question on reducing family based visas in favor of a merit based system, he stated that he would not support having skilled immigration (similar to existing immigration strategies in the United Kingdom and Australia) take precedence over family-based immigration.

"I do not support the reduction of family based visas in order to create a new points based system," Obama replied. "I would consider supporting such a system outside existing quotas."

Asked on whether he supported a guest worker program, Obama replied that he did, however it would have to meet certain requirements.

"I would support a new guest worker program to meet worker shortages in some sectors of the economy, but it must have strong worker protections and not exclude people from ever becoming Americans," Obama stated. "It must also take into account that some workers will wish to earn a right to stay in the U.S. permanently."

In additions to increasing H-1B quotas and supporting a guest worker program, Obama would like to see increases in low-skilled employment-based green cards from the current annual quota of 5000.

McCain's silence

While McCain chose not to answer the survey, he has gone on record supporting similar immigration reforms that Obama advocates. However, The Sanctuary found his silence in response to their questionnaire disconcerting.

"While our original intent was to present a meaningful side-by-side comparison of the policies and positions of all presidential candidates in order to better inform voters, Senator McCain's unwillingness to answer our questions, or to go on the record with his positions on the specific details covered in the questionnaire, has made this impossible," The Sanctuary's editors noted.

"Senator McCain's reluctance is all the more troubling in light of the fact that his previously published positions, available on his website, appear to directly contradict those in the official platform coming out of the Republican National Convention earlier this month," they added.