Presidential Candidates Tip Toe Around Issue Of Illegal Immigration

Presidential candidates tip-toe around issue of illegal immigration

Reported by: Tina Leonard, George Lewis, NBC News
Posted: Sep 30, 2008 10:47 PM

An estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. Many come from Central and South America.

But many legal immigrants also come from those areas, and the presidential candidates want to win their votes.

In Los Angeles, a huge swearing-in ceremony for 18,000 new U.S. citizens – most eager to exercise a fundamental right of citizenship.

“I am so excited to vote now, I can vote now,” said new U.S. citizen Diana Grace Medel.

This, as illegal immigration looms as a key issue for the candidates. So where do they stand on immigration?

Both John McCain and Barack Obama support a guest worker program for immigrants. Obama would couple that with a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers.

Obama supports letting illegal immigrants obtain driver's licenses. McCain opposes that idea.

Both McCain and Obama favor a path to legalization for the 12 million immigrants in this country illegally, claiming this is not amnesty.

And both voted in favor of extending the border fence.

Under conservative pressure, McCain has backed away from his earlier support of comprehensive immigration reform.

Tough talk about border security has become part of the message for both candidates. But when they speak to Latino audiences, the emphasis changes.

“This election is about the 12 million people living in the shadows,” Obama said in a speech on September 10.

“…A humane and compassionate approach to those people who have come to this country illegally,” said McCain on September 10.

Both tip-toeing around an issue that just won't go away.

Hispanics account for about 15 percent of the U.S. population and almost 10 percent of eligible voters.