By Naveed Mansoori

The rat race toward the 2008 presidential election has begun, with immigration at the center of debate. As President Bush rolls out his new immigration plan, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may have to tread lightly on one of America’s hottest issues as they make their runs for the White House.

Operation Jump Start, Bush’s new plan– revealed on Monday– came soon after 62 undocumented immigrants were arrested as a result of an immigration raid in Beardstown, Illinois on Apr. 4.

If passed, the plan will send 6,000 National Guard troops to the U.S./Mexico border to supplement the Border Patrol. It would also create a temporary worker program, hold employers accountable for the status of the workers they hire, and resolve the status of the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country.

Ben Labolt, press secretary for Senator Obama (D-IL), explained that Obama supported the Kennedy-McCain comprehensive immigration bill, which would have improved border security and set undocumented immigrants on the path towards citizenship.

“Senator Obama believes that our immigration system is broken and that the tensions and raids have reinforced how important it is to pass comprehensive reform,” Labolt said.

According to Obama’s website, he believes that undocumented immigrants should be “required to pay a substantial fine and back taxes, learn English, satisfy a work requirement, and pass a criminal background check.”

Senator Clinton (D-NY) has reported that she too favors comprehensive immigration reform based on the strengthening of our borders, greater cooperation with our neighbors, harsher penalties for undocumented workers, and a path to earned citizenship. Clinton states that America, as a country with a strong immigrant-based past, should be accepting of immigrants, but she also speaks of America as a country of laws that should be respected.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a non-partisan, non-political organization working to stop illegal immigration.

Jack Martin, special projects director for FAIR, speculated that the Democratic Party has ulterior motives for passing immigration reform, especially because the majority of immigrants register as Democrats.

“Democrats see [immigrants registering as Democrats] as a positive aspect of large-scale immigration… if they were to win the White House, there would be some effort to increase immigration, but President Bush is already advocating that,” Martin said.

In an Aug. 5 radio address, President Bush stated his goals and reasoning for tightening border patrol security.

“By passing comprehensive immigration reform, we will uphold our laws, meet the needs of our economy, and keep America what she has always been–an open door to the future, a blessed and promised land, one nation under God,” Bush said.

Michael K. Brown, politics professor at UC Santa Cruz, explained that despite Bush’s optimism, his plan was unlikely to pass through Congress, as few Republicans would be willing to “stick their necks out for immigration.”

“It’s much more conservative because he has to attract a bunch of conservative votes,” Brown said. “It’s a non-starter. The Republicans in congress have little incentive to cooperate with the president on this and vote for an immigration bill. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”